Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oh, the places you'll go

The End

It’s a sad thing to look at those words on any page, but ends turn into beginnings every day, right?  It’s at the beginning of these words with hope, as for now, Swoop! is over.  It’s impossible to maintain eye contact as the words spill out and it catches in my throat every time I stutter it aloud.  We’ll be open at the Hey Hey through Friday 10/17 and catering a wedding Saturday.

I’ve spent most every moment of my life for the last three years building this thing that I think is pretty swell and it’s hard to let it go, but it’s time, possibly past time to do so.  An incredible amount of effort, a stupendous amount of work and all of my heart has been poured into the endeavor.  It has been a spending ordeal.

It’s also been an amazing experience.  I’ve been able to work shoulder to shoulder with a great guy that I consider a brother.  Some of my friends and family have had my back in such a hardcore fashion that it’s worried me from time to time.  I met an awesome lady that’s been incredibly supportive day to day and has singlehandedly stood between me and diabetes as well as multitude other malnutritive (yes, I made that word up) disorders.  I’ve been able to work with a bunch of eager to learn folks and hopefully given them some worthwhile knowledge and ideas to move forward with.  I’ve met so many fantastic people that have been great supporters of the dream and really get what we’ve been fighting to do.  John Pc, who I’m sure kept us open for at least one truck season all on his own.  Kara Kelly, who’s enthusiasm for our food has been an absolute joy to behold.  Kate Djupe, who came out of nowhere and shoved Bebe in the mouths of all of her friends and an unreciteable list (the roll of names and faces keep growing in my head and heart) of others who have enthusiastically let us know that we’ve given them some of the greatest food experiences of their lives.  I wish I could say all of your names and tell you how much I appreciate you all. 

Swoop! has been there for so many people on their special days, and how could one not be proud of that.  I’ve bonded with many impressive, hard working cooks and adjacent professionals such as Heather Morris (who also has nearly killed me with donuts) Matt Swint (nearly killed me with focaccia and beer), Laura Lee (bulgogi cheesesteaks), Shelley Mann (hasn't nearly killed me at all) and Mark Tolentino (fried chicken and car bombs) who have given me inspiration and energy time and again.  I’ve gotten to find my culinary voice and make a lot of awesome food that I am immensely proud of.  I’ve gained a beautiful second family in the Galls at the Hey Hey Bar and Grill.  That’s enough for now.

So, thanks Columbus for a damned interesting ride.

“Out there things can happen, and frequently do,
To people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don't worry, don't stew.
Just go right along, you'll start happening too!” 
― Dr. SeussOh, The Places You'll Go!

Friday, October 3, 2014


Not very long ago I was asked to pen an editorial for a local publication.  Perhaps due to space issues, or possibly general suckiness, it wasn't published.  What I said was important to me and for that reason, here is is.  I think food is very important and I'd like it to be taken (more) seriously by those that eat it and those that make it.    It is at a very deep level something that defines us throughout a wide range of specificity.  What we eat tells our story as a species, culturally and even as individuals by the food we enjoy (or don't), our allergies, our religious restrictions and our "world famous mac and cheese/pasta salad/iced tea recipes".  Food is something to be thoughtful about and preserved because as little as we consider it in the process, we put it inside of ourselves to our benefit or detriment.


In the beginning there was chef, chief of the kitchen.  He ruled with an iron fist, creating recipes, teaching and managing staff and controlling quality throughout the process of a restaurant’s prep and service.  At it’s basic level, for decades, that was the backbone of the job title “Chef”.
In the last ten years, we’ve seen the expansion of the responsibilities of a chef to include celebrity, writer and activist.  Recently, especially in the south we’ve begun to see a new breed of chef as historian.  Chefs like Sean Brock have made it a mission, engrained in the deepest part of their businesses, to maintain and preserve the food traditions of the south and investigate where they come from.  More than that, it’s a push to save actual ingredients from extinction.  Brock painstakingly saves and catalogues heritage seeds and seeks out old breeds of animals native to the south.  It’s a brave old world.
Take the Southern Foodways Alliance.  It’s a group that’s dedicated to studying and preserving the food culture of the south.  That’s an incredible concept that really shouldn’t be revolutionary.  From the dawn of humanity, the food we’ve eaten has been an integral influence on the way that we’ve lived our lives.  Food has been a major factor in both the uplifting and downfall of entire societies.  Why shouldn’t it be viewed as one of the most important ways we document history?
It makes me wonder about the food traditions of the Midwest.  I’m from the Midwest, and I don’t know what they are.   Do they even exist?   Are they being lost to a reputation as big chain guinea pigs?
Therein lies the opportunity, as yet undefined, for all of us chefs here in Central Ohio.  There are many ways to go about defining a tradition. 
For the more studious among us, the culinary traditions of the Midwest are rich, hearty and ancient.  Like Brock, we could dig into the history of our state and work to preserve and grow our knowledge and refine the dishes of old, drawing from the state’s old German and Polish roots, or for the more intrepid among us, the roots that sink even deeper.
There are also infinite new and progressive combinations and perspectives to explore while still pulling from the rich agriculture surrounding us.   With a community of cooks and chefs, we could explore avant garde techniques paired with heritage ingredients and eek out our own food traditions unique to our home.  With the burgeoning diversity of our city, the entire world can be the palette we use to paint an enduring picture of the city we love.

When people talk about food in Columbus, all too often it’s in regard to some new import from another city or opening a New York or Chicago style restaurant in our city.  I’m all for developing a Columbus Style and staking our claim to our own bounty and culinary heritage.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What's up Swoop!?

Chances are, if you know a cook, you know an action junkie.  The rush of service crashes down around your ears in an instant, and if the stars are all aligned and your crew is in the groove, it’s easy to lose yourself in it.  Sometimes, everything works and you dance through the night, hours slipping by like minutes. Sometimes, the tightrope begins to sway and you end up clutching at it for dear life, every minute stretching into eternity.

That rush, and the ability to not get buried in the weeds during the rough spots is what makes a restaurant run.  It wouldn’t happen if people didn’t come and people won’t come back if you don’t care enough to make it nice.   Sometimes it doesn't go so well, but you make it right and put it behind you.

We were fortunate enough to have a bustling sort of weekend at Bebe at the Hey Hey and it was a great feeling!  It’s one of our very favorite things to help people celebrate their special days, so we were extra happy to help the family and friends of The Commissary celebrate another milestone in their project, which feels in a lot of ways, like all of our project.

This weekend was also the sort that reminds you that as a food service team, we serve at your pleasure, because we really need you.  That’s why we work our hardest to do it right every time, shake up our menu as often as possible and knock your socks off every single time.

We take a lot of chances.  Very little of our food is conventional and we buy almost nothing prepared.  Making most of our food from scratch casts our labor requirements as absurd based on the size of our business.  Our semi-permanent location is a bit out of the way and as “an elite dive”, a  colorful phrase coined by a quippy yelper, it's difficult to know what to expect.  Our menu favorites are always in danger of being shuffled off and replaced with some nifty new idea.  We have only enough cold storage for a busy night, leaving us literally starting from scratch some days.

For those of you that have become our beloved regulars, those risks (we hope) pay off nightly.  We thank you so much for getting us this far and hope to see you soon.  For everyone else, of course we’d love to be successful beyond our wildest dreams, but now, this Swoop! things is still a dream we fight for daily and we need all of you to help us make it everything we want it to be, not just for us and our families, but for this city we’re fighting for.

In the mean time, we'll keep trying to push forward as a company.  We'll sharpen our knifes and get ready to cook off against the able Chef Catie from The Challah Food Truck in our inaugural edition of Columbus Knife Fight Club, July 26.

We'll try our new flavor combinations and techniques and record all of our great ideas so that our Kickstarter reward party and Bebida preview at The Commissary is as amazing as we hope you've come to expect from us.

And we'll hope to see your face at Swoop! Food Truck or Bebe at the Hey Hey or possibly someplace new we haven't clued you into yet.  Maybe.

Do you have a special day ahead?  Email this guy!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Break the chain gang

     Bitter war is coming!  In fact, it’s already here.  The battle over the culinary legacy of our town spills into the streets nightly.  Most of you are embroiled in it and have no idea how central you are to its victors being decided.  Big chains and purveyors of hollow junk food have incited battle with artisans, moms and pops.  It’s a war that small business owners offering you something unique, fresh and good appear to currently be on the losing side of. 
     Make no mistake, in a city where the choice of sustenance is quickly becoming very dense, the decisions you make will shape the very future of Columbus and on larger scale the world.  This likely seems a dramatic conclusion to draw, but the responsibility does in fact lie with all of us.
     Many words have been written directly linking food, music and art to the growth and cultural richness of urban and suburban populations.  It takes little more than the quickest glance at a few other cities to see a correlation between the food and art scenes and how desirable these places are as hubs of industry and tourism.  Do we want to be Chicago or Seattle?  I think that the answer is no.  We can cast our own lot, go our own way drawing from our seat deep in the heart of a state rich in agricultural potential and plenty or choose to embrace large chains who search for the very cheapest faceless producers and purveyors to manage cost to the detriment of the citizenry.
     Now, I’m not accusing the other side of being evil.  Many of them started off small companies, struggling to make food costs and payroll just like most of us.  They’ve grown and succeeded at a very high level.  They’ve made a pretty decent profit in our city and have every right to do so.  It’s easy to take potshots at them, but this text isn’t about defaming them.  It’s a matter of how we choose to define ourselves as a city.
     When we look at it from even further aloft, so many small businesses support each other in buying local and doing their very best to operate sustainably, that it puts the prosperity and health of the city starkly in the balance.  We can all choose to make it reasonable for small farms to produce products sustainably for consumption in Ohio by choosing to support restaurants and markets that favor these choices.  We can choose to increase tax revenue and living wage jobs by empowering our friends and neighbors to make more jobs. 
     A happy side effect could be more outstanding products made literally FOR YOU.  We want to be progressive and show off to a food literate populous so that people want to visit or move here to a place that we love.  We local Chefs want to create and innovate so that Columbus gets its fair share of national press and attention for more than just the latest triple bacon cheese explosion tested in our drive-throughs. 
     Those of us that toil over hot stoves, ovens and fryers… the hardworking folks that grow beautiful, unadulterated produce and happy, well cared for animals… we all want to take care of you.  We want to please you.  We want to delight you!  The best possible outcome for us is that you really like what we do and come to see us often.  Critical success is very edifying, but we aren’t in it for the reviews.  We’re running businesses that need your support so that we can support our families and pay our bills and help grow Columbus because we are proud to be here! 

     The most important weapon you wield in this mostly polite and quietly declared war is choice.  You’ll decide, in the end, how Columbus food will be looked at in the future.  Will we be continue to be known as a Fast and Junk Food hub of the nation? Will the scrappy band of small businesses win the battle for Columbus’ soul?  It’s up to you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Join us at the Bish Bash

Recently, children are brought sharply into focus due to a wide variety of recent events.  In a world full of tragedy it seems especially unfair that young ones are too often unable to live full lives.

This sounds like the beginning to a sad story, and I’ll admit, it’s not easy…  but it comes full circle as a portion of the promise of one young man’s life is being carried on by a loving family that chose to make something meaningful out of something senseless. 

Sam Bish was, to hear his family tell it, a regular kid starting the 3rd grade who loved to do the things most kids do.  He began to have some pain in his leg and as it affected him more and more, to the point of waking him up in the middle of the night and affecting his play, his parents took him to him to be seen by a doctor and received sad, shocking news. 

This wasn’t a matter of a simple strain.  Sam was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer in his leg.  A course of treatment was started right away, and a harrowing story ensued.  Sam endured surgery after surgery, as the cancer spread in addition to radiation therapy. 

After an unimaginably difficult road, filled with radical surgeries and constant radiation, Sam passed away in the summer of 2010.  What stood out to me from our meeting were his parent’s memories of him throughout as just a kid.  He still laughed, smiled and played.  He liked video games and Star Wars.  He had a wonderful time on a family trip to Disney World.

No one can say what wonderful things this brave kid might have done in life, but his Parents and two sisters have started the Sam Bish Foundation in his honor.

Their mission, “The Sam Bish Foundation brings Hope, Support and Smiles to children and families facing a pediatric cancer diagnosis.”

They do this by hosting on ward parties, sending care packages and working as almost an “in kind” clearing house, collecting donations and using their own time and energy to bring relief and support to the families affected by pediatric cancer.

This is how they honor the memory of their son.

We at Swoop!, along with our friends from Dos Hermanos are proud to partner with them, to raise funds at the “Bish Bash” August 10th, 2013 from 10:00-3:00PM at Westerville Christian Church

We’ll donate 100% percent of our profits for the day to the foundation to continue cheering families, providing help and comfort during financially troubling times and all manner of support for Children with and families affected by pediatric cancer.

We hope you’ll do your part and come eat some delicious food.  Listen to some good music… maybe bounce around in the bounce house, knowing that your support will help people that surely need it.

We hope your support won’t stop there.  There are other ways to help!