Collaborating with the Community Builders of Working Food

Working Food Gainesville

I’ve been getting cozy lately with Working Food, a non profit organization here in Gainesville that aims to connect the community to local food. A few weeks ago, I was at First Magnitude Brewing Company to compete in a Working Food Pot Luck Showdown. Next week, I'll be in charge of the salad course for their 2nd Annual Local Food Awards. I couldn't be more excited for this event; this year they'll be honoring two women who are doing amazing things for the local food community. Below is a recap from the pot luck and what's in store in the future. 

The Amazing Pot Luck Cookoff


Working Food's Amazing Pot Luck was held March 21 to benefit The Amazing Give, a North Central Florida donation platform that benefits local charities. I entered under the guise Monstera Delicious with two dishes: Beet Ricotta Tartine and Boston Butt Tartine on homemade sourdough. The brewery where the event was held has a large industrial beer hall, and both businesses and individuals entered the cookoff in order to compete for the glory of the Golden Spoon.

I was told by Maya Valesko, one of the founders of Working Food, that the challenge was to include locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. After selecting some produce from Siembra Farms and Farmer John at the Union Street Farmer's Market, I quickly discovered that this was no challenge at all, but made my job even easier. It was the beginning of spring season, and I couldn’t have been happier with the red beets, fresh herbs, and radish flowers that I found. I also began talking with Square A Farm, Goat Dairy Farm, and Wild Man Foods to find inspiration on the meat dish I wanted to bring. I settled on a beautiful Boston butt from Ward's Supermarket, a locally owned grocery store in Gainesville. 

On the day of the event, the brewery was packed with competitors and taste testers. I was one of the first booths to show up, and subsequently was placed at the first table after the ticketing area. BIG MISTAKE. Immediately, my table was swamped with a line and even more daunting, the judges chose to come over to me first too. Feeling a little overwhelmed, I calmly made small talk while my two assistants rushed to assemble the tartines (thank you to my sister and my bff for saving my ass, always). The first tartine was a vibrant pink beet ricotta spread on top of toasted sourdough with pickled radishes, spiced pistachios and garnished with dill, mint, and radish flowers. The meat option was the slow roasted boston butt on toasted sourdough with parsley and a spicy nam prik hot sauce. The judges, one of whom just won her seat as Gainesville City Commissioner the night before, seemed pleased with the two tartines and asked for another helping. So far so good! 

After assembling and feeding non-stop for the whole event, the judges went on stage to announce the winners of the golden spoons. I was shocked when I heard my name called for Best Side Dish! I won a Golden Spoon! And I still sleep with it under my pillow every night. The People's Choice Award went to a killer tortilla Española. 

The Pot Luck helped contribute to a total of almost $12,000 that went to The Amazing Give which will be filtered down to the North Central Florida non-profit community. 


Working Food's 2nd Annual Local Food Awards 

On May 19, Working Food will host their annual Local Food Awards. This year, they're highlighting women in food and honoring Jenny Franklin of High Springs Orchard and Bakery and Kelli Brew of Alachua County Farm to School. The emcee will be Osayi Endolyn, the deputy editor for the James Beard Award Winning publication, Gravy, from the Southern Food Alliance. 


I'll be contributing the salad course for the event. Staying true to the Working Food mission, me and the three other chefs will be highlighting local, in-season produce at the farm to table dinner. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here

Here's more info from Working Food's website: 


Jenny Franklin, High Springs Orchard and Bakery
For 20 years, Jenny has been a mainstay in High Springs, changing the landscape for local food. A small homestead initially intended to sustain their family and a few friends, quickly turned into The High Springs Orchard and Bakery, an organic orchard featuring some of the most sought after fruits in the area. Every year hundreds of visitors from all over the state flock to visit the farm that features a U-Pick operation of persimmons, chestnuts, muscadine grapes and figs. The bakery offers an impressive array of local and homemade fare including kimchi, empanadas, Pad Thai, moringa pesto, jams, jellies, countless pastries and deserts and so much more! Jenny is an avid supporter of local food systems development, participating in conversations with local government, partnering with UF/IFAS Extension to provide training to others, and connecting with many organizations to offer her farm, kitchen, and other resources to help expand educational opportunities on local food and Florida agriculture.  

Kelli Brew, Alachua County Farm to School Coordinator
Kelli has long been dedicated and passionate about facilitating connections among the various facets that create a holistic and inclusive local food community. Since 1998 she has overseen innovative programs that connect local food to those most in need of a nourishing meal, compassion, and dignity. Her creativity and outside-the-box thinking have created solutions and programs that effectively serve those most disenfranchised in our community. Homeless individuals and families, low income school children, and those with special needs have benefitted from Kelli’s dedication. Her current role as the Alachua County Farm to School Coordinator represents the culmination of a life dedicated to service and community. This unique multi-institutional, and county-wide collaboration is a nationally recognized program that supports 15 school gardens, and serves more than 27,000 students locally grown, often organic, fruits and vegetables on the lunch line every week.

Osayi Endolyn, Writer & Editor, James Beard Award Winner
Osayi is a writer and editor, exploring the American southern food landscape and the rich cultural connections with African American history. Her writing has appeared in numerous well-known publications, including the Southern Foodways Alliance, which earned her a James Beard Award Publication of the Year. Southern Living named her one of 30 Women Moving Southern Food Forward.