By Eric Watson
After all this time living in Fargo/Moorhead I’m still taking criticism from some for praising the progress of our culinary scene. I’m all for maintaining a realistic and truthful mindset when it comes to critiquing our local chefs and food establishments, but I also believe in the value of positive reinforcement when it comes to pushing our culinary community to the next level. I’m sure I could spend the majority of my time focused on the terrible food within our community, but I’d rather zero in on the good stuff and do my best to promote it.
Within the past 12 months, we have witnessed some great things gastronomically. The HoDo found a way to push octopus and bison tongue to a place a little more mainstream. Pinch & Pour has brought a new appreciation for fine oils and vinegar. We successfully launched a chef’s organization that will unite and educate both novice and veteran culinarians alike. A physical retail shop for a local food co-op is on the horizon and local farmers are continuing to gain in popularity. The guys at the Fargo Brewing Company have started brewing locally and food trucks are continuing to pop up. Food festivals are a top discussion point for many business leaders and our local young entrepreneurs are pushing more than ever for good food concepts. It doesn’t end there, though. There are many more developments that won’t fit into the maximum word content of this column.
To the food-cultured, this may seem like “too little, too late,” but I see it as a giant step in the right direction. We’ve come a long way in the last decade. The only things missing from our past culinary landscape were tumbleweeds and dust storms. Now we simply need to hold onto our momentum and make sure we don’t steer this thing in the wrong direction. The last ten years have brought us plenty of knowledge and progress and every year from here on out will snowball exponentially.
I remember when events like “Corks and Canvas” attracted a modest amount of patrons. Today these events are bringing folks out in great numbers and providing local restaurateurs an opportunity to capitalize on their popularity. Needless to say, I think the Downtown Community Partnership is spending money wisely.
Every year brings with it successes and failures. We have seen new restaurants pop up and we have certainly seen some close their doors. I’m sure it’s the entrepreneur in me speaking when I say I would suggest that an empty restaurant should not be looked upon as a disappointment but rather an opportunity for the next great local culinarian. I would definitely encourage our young culinary students to start brainstorming now. It won’t be long before they’re running the show and orchestrating next year’s food scene.
Eric Watson is the owner of Mezzaluna and Mosaic Foods in Fargo. He is also the founder and president of the Fargo branch of the American Culinary Federation
For more information on the ACF go to acfchefs.org and like it on Facebook by searching The Red River Valley Chef’s Association.