What’s new in food: We Give a Share hires new director

HARVESTING HOPE: Madi Holtzman, new director of We Give a Share, gathers vegetables from the Southside Community Farm for WGAS' Southside Kitchen. Photo by Brett Wyatt

Shortly after relocating to Asheville in January, Madi Holtzman began volunteering at Southside Kitchen. With a master’s degree in food studies from New York University and experience in food justice dating back to her undergraduate days at Vanderbilt University where she interned for the Nashville Food Project, Hotlzman wanted to put her background to use in her new community.

Along with volunteering, Holtzman did consulting work for We Give a Share, an initiative that launched in 2020 with the goal of connecting local farmers, who were experiencing a surplus of produce due to COVID-19 lockdowns, with communities needing healthy meals. From the start, WGAS, now a 501(c)(3), partnered with the Southside Kitchen in the Arthur R. Edington Education & Career Center, preparing hundreds of meals a week for residents of Asheville public housing before adding lunches for students at Asheville PEAK Academy and Verner Center for Early Learning.

Holtzman’s involvement with Southside Kitchen and WGAS serendipitously began around the same time the latter organization was seeking a director. Says WGAS founding board member Elizabeth Sims: “We went through a fairly rigorous consultation with a human resources director who helped us better define the job. Once we put the position out there into the universe, the divine sent us Madi Holtzman.”

In mid-May, Holtzman assumed the role. Her appointment came at a time of transition for Southside Kitchen. Last fall, WGAS took on the lease of the kitchen from the Asheville Housing Authority, becoming employers of Southside Kitchen chefs Kikkoman Shaw and Tarell Burton. With the meal-providing partnership between Southside Kitchen and the Housing authority now over, and school meals on pause for the summer, Holtzman is visualizing the path ahead for what WGAS and Southside can accomplish and how both entities can grow.

“It has always been part of the conversation that the Southside’s production team would break off and start their own for-profit social venture, probably a cooperative model,” she says.

Holtzman points to her time with the Nashville Food Project as inspiration for what she believes Southside Kitchen, supported by We Give a Share, can become. NFP  began in 2007 as the Nashville branch of the Austin, Texas-based nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes, delivering meals to homeless camps. Its founder, the late Tallu Schuyler Quinn, grew the initiative, adding a production garden and second truck. In 2011, NFP was incorporated as an independent nonprofit, reorganizing the meals model and adding a food recovery program. Today, the organization is a multifaceted operation with its own headquarters, commercial kitchen and community farm.

“NFP is kind of a road map of how multidimensional the impact of a food-based organization can be in a community,” Holtzman says. “It gives me hope and the patience to remember that while it may not feel it is evolving as fast as we’d like, if we keep taking each step with intention and trust, we’ll get there.”

John Fleer, also a founding board member of WGAS and the chef and owner of Rhubarb and The Rhu, is confident about Holtzman’s plan. “Madi brings a very strong vision to We Give a Share and the kitchen,” he says. “She has experience in and exposure to what they can become.”

Currently, Southside Kitchen is testing recipes and refining production procedures with produce from WGAS and, in turn, providing meals to Food Connection. It will resume meal production for Asheville PEAK Academy and Verner Center for Early Learning in August.

The kitchen is also focused on growing revenue-generating operations by providing locally sourced meal and meeting catering for aligned organizations such as nonprofit boards and health care groups. Holtzman invites inquiries at madi@wegiveashare.org

For more information on We Give a Share, visit avl.mx/9bg.

Flight plan

Asheville Independent Restaurant Association recently named Laura McCall as its new executive director. McCall takes the reins from interim director Kim Murray, who succeeded longtime AIR leader Jane Anderson.  “AIR is a well-established organization representing a passionate body of persons in the community at all levels of the industry,” McCall says. “I’m grateful for AIR’s dynamic board and for Kim’s and Jane’s past leadership.”

McCall’s immediate plan is to dive into the community, get to know available resources and to grow AIR’s four pillars — advocacy, education, workforce and connection. She notes that the nonprofit’s Affordable Housing Taskforce is meeting regularly and will soon release its mission and goals.

Long term, she wants AIR to be involved in all aspects of the decision-making that affects the food and beverage industry and its workforce for independent restaurants in Buncombe County. “I want AIR to continue to be a strong voice on behalf of our members. There is strength in numbers.”

For more information on AIR, visit avl.mx/asi.

On the move

In her first year as manager of the River Arts District Farmers Market, Lyric Antio is overseeing a big move. Beginning Wednesday, July 6, the year-round weekly outdoor market will move from its site in a gritty dirt lot behind Pleb Urban Winery on Lyman Street to the lush green riverside expanse at Smoky Park Supper Club.

“[Our current location] hasn’t been the best fit for us and who we are,” she explains. “It’s not aesthetically pleasing, there’s no shade or green, there are huge, deep puddles when it rains and a lot of dust and dirt when it doesn’t. It’s been a challenge for vendors and shoppers.”

RAD vendor and Mother Ocean Seafood Market owner Sam Kosik facilitated a hookup with the owners of Smoky Park, and Antio says it was an instant match. “Smoky Park has a long and solid reputation of supporting local food and farmers,” Antio notes. “They have been so welcoming and excited.”

On June 22, RAD vendors did a walkthrough of the new site, which will encompass the front lot of the restaurant and the Boat House pavilion, and Antio reports they were practically giddy. Though Smoky Park is closed on Wednesdays, its Airstream bar will be open to serve alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages during the market.

“Not only will vendors have room to spread out, but shoppers can grab a drink, buy some food, sit at a picnic table or bring a blanket to spread on the lawn, and just enjoy the river. And the shade,” Antio says.

RAD Farmers Market is every Wednesday 3-6 p.m.,  350 Riverside Drive. For more information, visit avl.mx/9ki.

Hash it out

Corner Kitchen’s popular Sunday brunch, previously on hiatus due to pandemic-provoked staffing issues, is back and seven times better. Now available every day from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Corner Kitchen’s brunch reprises the house-made, old-school corned beef hash with poached eggs (an homage to chef/co-founder Joe Scully’s dad), as well as house-smoked salmon, boozy French toast and the Biltmore basic. New to the menu are bacon cheddar tater tots and chef Brian Crow’s chicken and waffles with sausage gravy and chipotle honey. Lunch-bunch options are not left out — soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers remain. Dinner is served seven nights a week beginning at 5 p.m.

Corner Kitchen is at 2 Boston Way. For more information, visit avl.mx/bpl.

Take a spin

Citizen Vinyl’s Sessions Café has added Saturday brunch, expanding the weekday breakfast menu to include brunchy specials as well as breakfast cocktails. The Bossa Brunch will feature a vegetable strata; Bluegrass & Biscuits spins down-home biscuits and gravy. Meanwhile, a hit parade of pastries, bowls, savory bread pudding, chia cup, quiche and coffee drinks remain.

Sessions Café is at 14 O.Henry Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/9hy.

Fired up

Blaze Pizza has designated its meat eater and red vine pizzas as hero pies, and through Wednesday, July 20, 10% of the proceeds from hero pie sales will go to supporting police officers, firefighters and EMTs in North Carolina communities through the Support to Heroes Charlotte Foundation. The nonprofit provides first responders and their families with financial assistance in response to their need due to injury or illness. Owners of the two local Blaze Pizza stores have signed on to the effort.

Blaze Pizza is at 15 Peaks Center Lane and 1840 Hendersonville Road. See avl.mx/bpm for more information.

Sam’s club

Chef Sam Etheridge and Metro Wines presents First Ambrozia PopUp dinner, Wednesday, July 13, 6:30 p.m. The dinner is set to run simultaneous with Bastille Day in France, July 14.

Attendees will be greeted with a glass of bubbles, then seated for a three-course dinner, with wines imported, paired and poured by Thomas Meunier of AuthentiqueVin. Ambrozia, which Etheridge owned and operated for six years in North Asheville, closed in 2019.

“This is a day that celebrates new beginnings and unity and, for all of us, it marks the first of many PopUp collaborations with MetroWines and Ambrozia!”

Metro Wines is at 169 Charlotte St. Tickets are $69 each and can be reserved by calling 828-575-9525 or purchased at avl.mx/bpn.


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About Kay West
Kay West began her writing career in NYC, then was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, including contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. In 2019 she moved to Asheville and continued writing (minus Red Carpet coverage) with a focus on food, farming and hospitality. She is a die-hard NY Yankees fan.

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