26 Jun LTFF Blog: Supporting Tulsa’s Food Scene, One Meal at a Time
By Shanese Slaton, Mother Road Market Project Manager
My husband makes fun of the way I plan my schedule around my next meal, but to me all good memories are linked to food, whether the memory is from a certain meal or the experience around it.
As a foodie and avid supporter of shopping and eating local, I’ve truly enjoyed working with and getting to know Tulsa’s foodpreneurs through my role at the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation as Project Manager of Mother Road Market. I’ve had the privilege of working with a range of some of Tulsa’s most well-known restaurant owners and executive chefs, to those more green and hungry to make their mark on Tulsa’s food scene. And as Tulsa continues to develop, more incredible talent flocks to our city.
You may have seen one of the many articles naming Tulsa one of the best places to start a business, and, thanks to the investments of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation in food entrepreneurship, we see more restaurants and food-related businesses popping up throughout our city. It’s one of the things that is making our city even more unique and enjoyable to live in.
So, how can we support these brave and creative foodpreneurs to keep this momentum going, and really set our city apart from others? Here are a few simple tips anyone can use to do their part in helping to improve our food scene and support our local food businesses:
- Order the Specials– Chefs and their teams put a lot of time and effort into creating unique, memorable and delicious dishes. Take the leap and try something new! I’m guilty of ordering my favorite dishes around town that I fall back on, but I encourage you to branch out and trust the experts. It may be a unique combination of ingredients or something that you’re not exactly sure of, but take this time to ask questions, expand your palate and support the creativity it took to create the dish.
- Keep “Substitutions” to a Minimum– As a foodie, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that – although we have allergies, diets for better health, and taste preferences – when possible, trust the chef. He or she selected a particular type of bread, cheese, condiment, for a reason. Savor their art just the way they intended. They’ll appreciate it.
- Get to Know the Staff/Chef– We all have our favorite places we enjoy eating at and tend to frequent regularly. I encourage you to take the time to get to know the staff. The servers, the line cooks, the bussers and the chef all work together to give you the best experience. Getting to know these people, not only makes dining out feel more like dining at a friend’s home, but they are more likely to tell you insider information about what the chef was playing around with back in the kitchen and may even bring you a taste!
- If You Like Something, Say So – We’re all guilty of complaining if something’s not to our liking, but when something is delicious, out of this world, mind blowing or simply comforting – SAY SO! Tell the staff, ask them to share the feedback with the chef and their team, tell your friends/coworkers, and share on social media. The food business is a difficult industry. In a recent study, researchers found that 59% of food business fail in their first 3 years. Our foodpreneurs need all the support they can get.
- Attend a Chef’s Dinner/Cooking Class– As Tulsa’s food scene grows, special events like chef dinners, dinners with beverage pairings, ingredient-themed dinners (i.e. blueberry, tomato, etc.) and cooking classes are popping up more frequently. I encourage you to take part in these experiences. You’re not only bound to have some delicious dishes, but more than likely you’ll expand your palate and learn something along the way.
- Go Off-Menu– If you are feeling adventurous, you can give your server a price range and ask for the chef’s choice. You may just find yourself with something the chef has been playing around with, but hasn’t yet released.
With these simple adjustments to your dining-out habits, you’ll not only learn more about agriculture, cooking techniques and ingredient pairings, but you’ll be supporting the chef, their team and the overall food community – doing your part to foster a more creative and delicious city.