By Kay West
When Albie DelFavero and Bruce Dobie bought the the Nashville Scene in 1989, it was a free weekly shopper rolled up and dropped in people’s driveways where it usually languished unread until it turned into a soggy gray log and was scooped into garbage bins on their way to the curb. There was some editorial content typically related to entertainment, which included an occasional restaurant “review,” one guaranteed to please advertisers. As Bruce and Albie turned the shopper into a true alt-weekly, their initial focus was on politics, power, opinion-ating, cultural commentary, sexual shenanigans and generally generating as much water-cooler conversation as possible.
It took them a while to catch on that true, critical restaurant reviews had the potential to create heated controversy all on their own. In the beginning—if there was room—the task of writing about what was, back then, a pretty dull and predictable restaurant landscape fell to whoever pestered Dobie enough to do it. When Nicki Pendleton Wood took on the beat with her signature style and savvy, she set the table to establish it as a weekly and important feature. When she left to become Food Editor of the Nashville Banner, I got the column. From 1992 through the end of 2006, I wrote 1500 words every single week on restaurants, chefs, dining out, dining in, taking out, driving through, driving to, trends, cooking competitions, new products, local products, markets, farmers and farmer’s markets. If it was food, it was mine.
Some years after I began writing the column, I found out that the Scene had conducted reader surveys which repeatedly indicated that the Food column was consistently among the most ‘popular’ in the paper. Albie kept this classified info from me as long as he was able (it was possibly revealed during a Scene gathering that involved adult beverages), afraid I would demand a raise as soon as I knew. I was under no delusion that the column was such a hit because of my stellar writing skills and expert insights into all things culinary. Food, the column, was so well read because of its subject—food.
Not everyone cares about politics, business, architecture, the environment, sports or social issues. Not everyone listens to music or goes to movies or reads books or appreciates art. But everyone has to eat. And even though not everyone who eats is lucky enough, or well-funded enough, or child-care assisted enough to visit a restaurant every week as I did, most every Scene reader was eventually going to have a parent in town, a date to impress, an anniversary to celebrate, a client to woo or a deal to seal. They would use some discretionary funds to dine out, and they wanted to be darn sure they invested those funds well.
Which is just what appealed to me about Dining Out for Life when T. Allen Morgan of Nashville CARES called me ten years ago and asked to meet to tell me about a new fundraiser “with your name all over it” as he put it. Juggling single parenthood of two young children and an unpredictable portfolio of freelance writing assignments, I had him meet me in my kitchen as I made dinner. As I made turkey burgers and macaroni and cheese, he explained the concept: sign up a roster of local restaurants who will give a percentage of a particular night’s food receipts, team those restaurants with an assigned host who will recruit family, friends, colleagues, associates, your dry cleaner, hair stylist, yoga instructor and dog groomer to dine out in ‘their’ restaurant. He was right. It did have my name all over it. By the time dinner was on the table, I had said yes to co-chairing Dining Out for Life. (And every year since, first with Wonnie Short, and then the last couple of years with Bob Deal and Jay Methaney.)
People often ask me what my favorite restaurant is. My favorite restaurants are the ones that are owned by folks in this community, whose faces I see when I walk in the door. Those who feed not only their family, friends, colleagues, associates, dry cleaner, hair stylist, yoga instructor and dog groomer, but support and nurture their community by saying yes when asked to help. Every one of the nearly 60 restaurants participating in the 2012 Dining Out for Life on April 24th is locally owned, and twelve are ten-year partners: Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery, Caffe Nonna, Jackson’s Bar & Bistro, Margot’s, Mambu, Park Café, Provence Breads & Café, Suzy Wong’s House of Yum (Formerly Red), Tin Angel, The Mad Platter, Wild Iris and The Yellow Porch, which was the restaurant I hosted the very first DOFL in 2003.
Everyone has to eat. On April 24th, you can make it matter by investing your dining dollars in our community restaurants and our community. http://www.diningoutforlife.com/nashville
Thank you, Kay! This further reminds us to support our local restaurants as they support our local community in so many ways.