Little Rhody lost two of its brightest food stars in recent months. Both George Germon and Guy Abelson pushed the city of Providence up from post-industrial morass to celebrated culinary destination.
Guy Abelson passed away on September 2, 2015. Known first as a restaurateur, he was instrumental in kick-starting the (now nationally acclaimed) Providence food and restaurant scene with his award-winning restaurants Café in the Barn and InProv. Guy, an event planner par exellence, made a strong impact as a social activist and philanthropist. Guy lived a simple life, eschewing fancy cars and clothes. He believed deeply in social responsibility and dedicated his unparalleled talents and resources to helping others.
In 1985 Guy reached out to Oxfam America, organizing and hosting the first ever “Taste of the Nation.” Raising $20,000, the event was picked up by Share Our Strength, a national hunger relief organization, that continues to host the fund-raising event each year. That seed, sown by Abelson, has gone on to raise literally millions of dollars for hunger relief projects throughout the nation. In addition to hunger relief, Guy raised money and awareness for Project AIDS RI, City Year, Hasbro Children’s Hospital and Bradley Hospital. Guy Abelson’s contribution to Rhode Island’s food community and his philanthropic work are unparalleled. Just as his work reached the far corners of Rhode Island, the loss will be deeply felt throughout the entire state.
George Germon, of the restaurant Al Forno, passed away on October 27, 2015. Germon, along with his beloved wife and partner in all ventures, Johanne Killeen, vaulted Providence onto the international food scene with a simple grilled pizza. In addition to that heavenly pizza, Germon also blessed the world with dirty steak and hot fanny sauce. Their restaurant, Al Forno, a food destination since it opened its doors in 1980, continues holding strong 35 years in. Germon’s influence on Rhode Island’s food scene is legendary. He was all about fresh and local before those became ubiquitous culinary buzzwords. No food was too humble, all food was treated with reverence and respect … simply well prepared.
Not a classically trained chef, Germon graduated from RISD with a degree in sculpture. He could have been a celebrity chef but abstained. He was not interested in celebrity; his interest was in the artistry of good food. He and Killeen won the James Beard “Best Chefs in the Northeast” Award in 1993 and in 1994 Al Forno was named the best casual restaurant in the world by the International Herald Tribune. Together, they wrote On Top of Spaghetti, a collection of recipes that celebrate all things noodle, and their first cookbook, Cucina Simpatica: Robust Trattoria Cooking From Al Forno, a collection of recipes that take the home cook from starters through dessert in rustic Italian style.