FOOD FOR THOUGHT Dadekian.
This year, Rhode Islanders have heard speeches about the State of the State (Governor Lincoln Chafee, January 15), the State of Education (Commissioner Deborah Gist, January 30), and the State of the State’s Health (Department of Health director Dr. Michael Fine, February 26). We know of no plans, however, for a State of Food address.
For that, you’ll have to make an appointment with David Dadekian, the mastermind of the food news website and event-organizing operation, Eat Drink RI, who seems to know every chef, restaurant, farm stand, and manufactured food product within state lines.
We initially scheduled an interview with Dadekian to talk about his third annual Eat Drink RI Festival: the four-day gastronomic bonanza beginning April 24 that he describes as “farmers to fine dining and everything in between.” This year’s lineup includes a feast proffered by Johnson & Wales alums and faculty, a rally of over a dozen food trucks, and a “Grand Tasting” in the Biltmore ballroom with more than 30 exhibitors ranging from American Mussel Harvesters Inc. to the Wine Brothers, followed the next day by a “Grand Brunch” featuring music from Rhode Island Philharmonic musicians.
But then more food news broke for Dadekian. On April 16, he was officially named one of two 2014 Rhode Island Foundation Innovation Fellows, which means that, over the next three years, he’ll receive grant payments totaling $300,000. His project is “the Eat Drink Rhode Island Central Market. . . a centralized culinary hub for Rhode Island, a complete business-to-business and business-to-consumer center, as well as being a destination for visitors to Rhode Island,” a Foundation release explains. In other words, he won the Ocean State version of the much-drooled-over $500,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” Fellowships.” (For the record, Dadekian says, “I am not a genius.”)
What follows are excerpts from our conversation with RI’s unofficial Food Laureate. Our conversation has been edited and condensed.
CONGRATS ON THE FELLOWSHIP. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PROJECT? My project is to create a central market and food hub to promote local foods and to basically [propel] the mission of the Food Policy Council [of which I’m a member].
We have a four-tier mission statement with the Policy Council: it’s access, economy, environment, and production. We want to ensure that everyone in the state has access to good quality healthy food, local food; that that food production doesn’t impact the environment negatively, that it improves the environment, if possible; that it’s economically viable for everyone (and that includes the producers as well as the consumers); and then production is basically ramped up. Ken [Ayars] from the DEM. . . is famous [for saying] that all the food grown in Rhode Island only feeds one percent of the population. How do we change that? I don’t think we’ll ever get to the point where we feed 100 percent of the population. But 10 percent? Twenty percent? Let’s see.