local heroes

Congratulations to our 2017 Local Hero Winners!

By Johnette Rodriguez | March 07, 2017
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Chef / Restaurant

James Mark / north and north Bakery

Sometimes there are definitive moments that lead you to a career (for James Mark, as a chef) and sometimes, deep into that career, those moments return. So it was when the Johnson & Wales University grad worked at a co-op in Wales and picked fresh vegetables for a nearby restaurant. Light bulb #1. After a stint at Momofuku in NYC and a culinary trip around Asia, Mark came back to Providence and set up north restaurant with two other JWU alums in 2012. And though the local food scene was already about “truly honest food,” in his words, it’s gotten even better: “We were making choices based on what we could do vs. what we wanted to do.” Now they have become deeply connected to individual (and local) produce farmers, beef and poultry farmers, oyster growers and wholesale seafood dealers. Light bulb #2. “It’s really inspiring,” Mark notes. “It’s deeply personal and what we believe in.” Clearly patrons agree. The West Side restaurant is outgrowing its space, and the nearby north Bakery (2015) has blossomed into a seven-days, four-nights-with-dinner, plus bar, establishment with a satellite location on Kennedy Plaza.

north, 3 Luongo Memorial Square, Providence. 401.421.1100; FoodByNorth.com

north Bakery, 70 Battey St. and Kennedy Plaza, Providence. 401.421.4062; NorthBakery.com

Farm / Farmer

Barden Family Orchard / Gil and Sandie Barden

The “family” in the Barden farm’s name points significantly to Gil Barden’s grandfather running the farm from 1931. Gil took over in 1989 and now runs the farm with his wife, Sandie, and grown son, Andrew, who pitch in on all fronts. Andrew and Gil are currently installing a high-density trellis system for the new plantings of apples (they have 20 varieties) and peaches (12 varieties); putting in more blueberry plants than ever; and making decisions about other crops such as corn, pumpkins and squash. “The essence of what drives the farm,” Sandie stresses, “is my husband and his never-ending well of energy. His mind is always working, day or night. He’s never on autopilot.” That means keeping up with the latest developments in integrated pest management (IPM), studying the best varieties of fruit to grow as a small retail operation, keeping track of new pests or weather threats to the crops. And enduring the “long grind of harvest,” in Sandie’s words, when pick-your-own and the farm stand are open and Barden’s is traveling to multiple farmers’ markets weekly.

56 Elmdale Rd., North Scituate. 401.934.1413; BardenFamilyOrchard.com

Every autumn, readers of Edible Rhody are invited to vote for their local food heroes, as a way to honor the people who bring us our food and drink. We’d like to extend our thanks to all of you who voted for the chefs who feed us; the artisans who tempt us; the farmers who produce flavorful foods; the food, wine and retail stores that inspire us; and the nonprofits that effect change in our food community.

Food Artisan

Ciril Hitz, senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University, cookbook author and founder of BreadHitz.com

There’s something about European bread and chocolate that stays in your blood. Born in Switzerland, Ciril Hitz immigrated here with his family when he was 12 and got a fine-arts degree at RISD. But it was when he went back to Switzerland for a three-year cooking apprenticeship that he found his calling. He returned to the States, cooked in Newport, made chocolates in Westerly and began to teach baking at Johnson & Wales (for the past 20 years) and now at his farm in Rehoboth, where he has a wood-fired hearth oven and sponsors weekly classes or “events” through BreadHitz.com. He also sells baked goods seasonally at the farm. Customer favorites are focaccia, chocolate brioche rolls, Russian braids and even wood-fire-roasted granola. He’s currently “enamored with grinding” his own grains and with making two completely different products from one dough. As Hitz emphasizes: “If you get up in the morning and you feel like you want to bake some bread, you know you’re in the right job!”

BreadHitz.com

Beverage Artisan

Robin Squibb, Granny Squibb’s Iced Tea

On a hot August day in the early 1930s, when Sally Squibb made up a batch of a new-fangled beverage called iced tea, she could not have foreseen that her granddaughter Robin Squibb would turn her recipe into a flourishing artisan business 75 years later! Robin’s grandmother had brewed the tea from the family’s well water in Saunderstown, mixed in cane sugar and plenty of lemon juice, then topped it off with mint from the brook behind her house. It was an immediate hit and remained so, down through the generations, winning local fans at church fairs, weddings and local festivals. After a successful career as a script supervisor for major motion pictures, Robin founded the Granny Squibb Company in 2009, and she’s since expanded her product into 250 stores in New England and moved to using all-organic ingredients. Her iced tea is a favorite for those looking for clean taste, quality ingredients and a trusted local brand. In addition to offering both sweetened and unsweetened Sally’s Lemon and Mojito Lime, she is pondering new fruity flavors for the coming year and maybe even popsicles!

GrannySquibb.com

Food, Wine, Retail Shop

Drake Patten, cluck!

With a background in running nonprofits (The Steel Yard, Rhode Island Council on the Humanities), Drake Patten brought her common sense, her business sense and her artistic flair to establishing the urban agricultural shop, cluck!

She lives on a 48-acre historic farm in western Cranston and, being a gardener and a raiser of goats, chickens and bees, she felt that there wasn’t a local place that combined the friendly conversation and advice found at an old-fashioned country store with the attention to detail of a specialty shop. So she set about to build what she needed: a place where you could try out a tool or ask questions about chickens or get feedback on any questions about farming or gardening or raising animals. She opened the store in June 2013, and is “on the move to another location” sometime soon. “The greatest thing is how much I learn from my customers all the time. The exchange of knowledge and experience is the best part of the business!” (Photo by Rupert Whiteley.)

399 Broadway, Providence. 401.274.1160; cluckRI.com

Food-Related Nonprofit

Amos House

Begun in 1976 by Sister Eileen Murphy as a small soup kitchen to feed 30–50 men a day, Amos House in Providence has grown to serve 500–800 meals a day (1,000 on some recent January days). Under the leadership of Eileen Hayes, CEO/executive director, Amos House now encompasses 14 buildings, including a new central location that houses the soup kitchen, a community center and many of its social service and job-training programs. The Amos Culinary Education program (begun in 2002) runs three or four (16-week) cycles each year, with 20–25 students in each class. Students are taught customer service, hands-on knife skills and kitchen management and are placed in internships that often lead to employment. In 2007, the Amos Carpentry Training was added, which teaches basic home improvement skills. There are also adult literacy programs, a motherchild reunification program, 90-day transitional housing opportunities and three businesses to employ trainees. But the heart of Amos House remains the soup kitchen, a place where all are welcome and no one has to provide proof of eligibility. Hayes is pictured here with head chef of 34 years, John Nelson.

460 Pine Street, Providence. 401.272.0220; AmosHouse.com

Article from Edible Rhody at http://ediblerhody.ediblecommunities.com/food-thought/congratulations-our-2017-local-hero-winners
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