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Mash Files: Chicago 2014

On the Mash tour this year, we have invited diverse groups of inspiring people to break bread with us around the table for an event we call Family Meal. This five to six course meal (depending on how ambitious I am feeling) is about bringing together some of the folks that make up the dynamic culture of each city we visit. This mix of chefs, entrepreneurs, artists and craftsmen makes for an exciting evening of collaboration, and conversation based on innovation and the preservation of local food tradition.

This event is one of the most enjoyable of the tour for me because I get a chance to cook and eat with my peers who inspire and drive me to continue the work I do to preserve local food systems and promote the values of craft beer and good food. In Chicago, our table was graced by the Chicago Dinner Lab team, the folks from Dark Matter Coffee, Chicago Honey Co-op, Co-op Sauce, Crumb bread, and one of my favorite Chicago haunts, Untitled. Cooking for a room with such discernible tastes can be daunting, but a few Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ales help to calm the nerves. I wish we had a bigger table so we could have invited all our new friends like the gang from Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, West Loop Salumi, Letherbee Distillery, and chefs like Nicole Pedderson and Jared Wentworth, but sadly our Air B&B had some space limitations.

I rarely get to serve food and sit and eat with my guests, but this event allows for just that. One of my pet peeves with the restaurant industry is the disconnect between chef and guest, but Family Meal allows me to interact with people while they enjoy their meal, and give feedback that helps to improve my pairings and dishes.

We ate and drank late into the evening, and by the end new friendships and potential future collaborations had been established, along with the realization that Claire Dietzen of Dinner Lab really loves pink Starbursts and can consume a whole pack in a matter of seconds. Standing on the back deck among a sea of conversation and clinking glasses, I felt a true sense of satisfaction, and a reaffirmation of what we are doing on this crazy Mash adventure. This dinner party truly encapsulates the essence of the Mash: collaboration, pleasure, discovery and good people coming together to celebrate. If the rest of our family meals are half as memorable as this one I will be a happy man.

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