What’s new in food: Asheville Food and Beverage United unionizes

LOCAL MOVEMENT UNIONIZES: A grassroots movement that began on Facebook, Asheville Food and Beverage United, has become an official labor union. Photo courtesy of Jen Hampton

Asheville Food and Beverage United has become an official labor union through Restaurant Workers United, an independent, democratic, worker-led union for restaurant, bar and cafe workers.

This unionization is the result of over 2 1/2 years of grassroots organizing that began through social media. AFBU first formed on Facebook as a way for service industry workers to connect during COVID-19.

“Before we created the group, I had always internalized the problems, economic issues and hardships from working in the service industry my whole life as my own fault,” says AFBU Chair Jen Hampton. “Once I started talking to other people in the Facebook group, I started realizing we were all facing the same issues and realized it was how the system was set up, and not me, that was causing the issues.”

While AFBU’s jurisdiction covers all of North Carolina, the union focuses first on the needs of Asheville and Buncombe County, collaborating with cities and towns throughout the state on advocacy, support and empowerment of food, beverage and hospitality workers.

As the movement evolved from its original Facebook community into the real world, it organized around a platform of three priorities: 1) a living wage for all food and service workers, as defined by Just Economics WNC; 2) paid time off for sick leave; and 3) fair scheduling.

“Listening to people and figuring out the most widely and deeply felt issues for people is how we move forward,” says Hampton. “I’ve learned that apathy isn’t real. Everybody cares about something, so you just have to listen to people and talk to them about how they can take action to address the things they care about.”

AFBU’s first membership campaign launched Nov. 13, with 22 people in the union and more than 3,000 individuals on the union’s listserv. AFBU is working toward increasing the union to 100 members in the next year, at which point they will hold elections to determine a steering committee. Current campaigns include combating wage theft in the service industry through labor law education and sexual harassment education programs developed in conjunction with Our VOICE, an agency that fights sexual violence and human trafficking in Buncombe County.

“We believe rebuilding a strong labor movement in the United States is the key to creating changes and improving the quality of life of all workers,” says Hampton. “That’s our driving belief behind creating this union: we can make changes when we’re all working together.”

Visit avl.mx/d6w for additional information.

Chef Jason Smith plans book signing

Mast General Store will host chef Jason Smith on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 3-6 p.m., for a book signing event promoting his new cookbook.

Lord Honey: Traditional Southern Recipes with a Country Bling Twist features descriptions, instructions and tips on crafting Southern delicacies. Each recipe, from sweet tea and bourbon-fried chicken to molasses-glazed carrots, is an homage to Smith’s grandmother and his fond memories from her Kentucky kitchen.

“Country cooking is a lost art,” says Suzy Greene, community communication specialist for Mast General Store. “People just don’t have the time to make a big spread every day like Jason’s granny. We think it’s important to share the stories and dishes of the past with new generations, even if they are going to serve it up just once in a while.”

Smith began his culinary career as a school cafeteria manager and caterer before achieving public recognition in the third season of Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship.” The chef’s star continued to rise through appearances on other Food Network competitions as well as nationally televised, food-themed shows such as History Channel’s “The Fast History Of” and A&E’s “Deliciously Twisted Classics.”

Smith will sign copies of his book while answering questions from his fans throughout the event. “We hope people will take away a genuine interaction with someone who is passionate about the food he grew up with, so they can go on to give it a try themselves,” says Greene.

Mast General Store is at 15 Biltmore Ave. Visit avl.mx/d6r for additional information.

Holiday festivities at Bold Rock Hard Cider

Bold Rock Hard Cider will host two holiday-themed events to promote the spirit of the season.

Up first is the Christmas Steal the Pint Night on Friday, Dec. 1, beginning at 4 p.m. Cider will be served in special, festive glasses that guests can take home at the end of the night. Glasses are limited to one per customer and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The downtown taproom will be decked with boughs of holly and twinkling lights. In addition to 14 craft ciders, Bold Rock will feature several winter and holiday beers on tap, such as Sixpoint Brewery’s Bone Chill IPA, Southern Tier Brewing Co.’s Frosted Sugar Cookie Strong Ale and Victory Brewing Co.’s Layered Up Wintertime Stout.

The festivities continue Sunday, Dec. 3, when children and adults can meet Santa Claus at a holiday brunch from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The cidery’s recurring Bluegrass Brunch will be updated to feature holiday menu items and classic Christmas songs.

Bold Rock Hard Cider is at 39 N. Lexington Ave. Visit avl.mx/d6q for additional information.

The Whale achieves global recognition

The Whale :: A Craft Beer Collective has been recognized on the list of Best Beer Bars in the World by Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine’s 2023 Best in Beer Readers’ Choice Awards.

“When we found out we won this award, we had to do a double take,” says co-owner Andrew Ross. “It’s insane to be recognized for doing what you love and even more insane when people around the world notice.”

The list designates 20 pubs, bars and cafes as the most essential purveyors of the craft beer community and experience. They are all considered to be vital links between makers and consumers of craft beer around the world.

“This list is stacked with the best of the best, and we feel humbled to be next to them,” says Ross. “This is only more motivation to keep on going and bringing the best beers in the world to the homies. Prost!”

In addition to The Whale’s recognition, Asheville was voted as the number four Favorite Beer City in a separate readers choice poll. All four Whale locations (West Asheville, Haw Creek, Greenville, S.C., and Charleston, S.C.) were honored as a collective.

The Whale is at 507 Haywood Road #10 in West Asheville and at 2 Beverly Road in East Asheville’s Haw Creek. For additional information on The Whale’s recognition and a full list of categories and winners, visit avl.mx/d72.

Leadership changes at New Belgium Brewing

New Belgium Brewing Co. has announced Shaun Belongie as the company’s new CEO. Belongie served as New Belgium Brewing’s chief marketing officer prior to the promotion and worked in a variety of finance, sales and marketing roles at both Kraft Foods and Nestlé Purina PetCare before joining New Belgium Brewing.

Former New Belgium Brewing CEO Steve Fechheimer stepped down earlier this year, prompting Lion Group, New Belgium Brewing’s parent company, to conduct an extensive search and interview process for his successor.

“New Belgium Brewing is a special place, powered by the best people in the business. I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to work every day alongside these incredible co-workers,” says Belongie in a news release. “I want to thank Lion Group CEO Sam Fischer for his confidence in me to help guide New Belgium into its next chapter, and our co-founder Kim Jordan for her inspiration in rethinking what a business can be.”

New Belgium Brewing, based in Colorado with an Asheville location, has experienced significant growth over the last several years to become North America’s largest craft beer platform. It merged with Bell’s Brewery just last year to further increase its portfolio and market share.

“Shaun’s breadth of experience, innovative mindset, commercial acumen and great love of the New Belgium Brewing culture and co-workers makes him an excellent fit to lead the team,” says Fischer in the same release. “The future for New Belgium Brewing is incredibly bright, and I look forward to working alongside Shaun and the team to continue its growth story.”

New Belgium Brewing is at 21 Craven St. For additional information, visit avl.mx/d6o.

Hemingway’s Cuba introduces rooftop cabanas

Hemingway’s Cuba has introduced two new rooftop cabanas designed to highlight the restaurant and bar’s elevated views while keeping guests warm in the winter months.

Available for reservation December-March, the new cabanas are fashioned from repurposed greenhouses. One winter cabana provides an intimate lounge space for up to eight guests to enjoy cocktails and small plates with unobstructed Blue Ridge Mountain views. The other seats up to six guests for a two-hour full dining experience. Both are covered and heated.

Menu items include hot toddies and s’more packages. Polaroid packages are also available for those wanting to capture the magic of the moment.

For reservations and additional information, visit avl.mx/d6p.


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