A Taste of Independents

Photo by CRYSTAL LUDWICK

Photo by CRYSTAL LUDWICK

On July 10, The Olmsted will be the site of A Taste of Independents presented by APRON Inc., a nonprofit that strives to financially aid employees of local independent restaurants. To learn more about the organization’s exciting summer fundraiser, we caught up with Gary Fox, president of APRON Inc.

What is A Taste of Independents?
A Taste of Independents is both a celebration of the depth and diversity of Louisville’s independent restaurants and an annual fundraiser for APRON Inc., a nonprofit that provides emergency financial funds to employees of the independent restaurant community.

What can guests expect at the event?
Our guests will spend a delightful Sunday afternoon at The Olmsted with tastings from over 30 of Louisville’s independent restaurants and libations from local liquor and wine distributors. There will also be a silent auction, a highlight of which will be an original signed photograph of Muhammad Ali in his prime by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Dan Dry. The Robbie Bartlett Duo will also be providing their special brand of jazz stylings.

Additionally, this will be the fourth year that we will be giving The Corbett Award for service to the independent restaurant community. Previous winners include Dean Corbett himself, the Maker’s Mark marketing team and Stacy Roof and The Kentucky Restaurant Association.

Why is the event important for APRON?
This is one of our most important events for a number of reasons.

First, it raises much needed funds to help us carry out our mission. We are a young, small nonprofit – we’ve only been around for four and a half years – with no paid staff. Almost all money we raise goes to helping needy members of our community. In January of this year after the devastating fire at SuperChefs and Maria’s Greek Deli, we were able to help 25 employees with rent and utilities – we could never have done this without the community’s help.

Secondly, A Taste of Independents helps us raise awareness of our charity to the general public and gives the public a wonderful overview of how special our food scene really is. Not to mention that it is a real bargain – $40 in advance or $45 at the door.

Finally, as we get the word out to the public at large, we also get the word out to the people we serve. We are such a small group that it has been challenging at times to get the word out about our mission to independent restaurant workers. This event helps get us more and more recognition in the community every year.

What difference have you seen this event make in the lives of its beneficiaries?
There are times when we actually help keep families from being evicted – when the parent has had an emergency and not been able to work for a while and has used up any savings they had. We are able to bring a little piece of mind and a bit more time to heal.

One of our favorite stories involves one of the first grants we gave out. A young woman was expecting and at the end, had a bit of a difficult pregnancy. We were able to pay rent and utilities for a month or two until she got back on her feet. Now, every year at A Taste of Independents, we see her and the newest picture of her handsome young son.

How has the event grown over the years?
This is our fifth summer event but only the second Taste of Independents. We had a speakeasy the first year and two disco events. These were great fun, but we came to realize we didn’t need all the extras – what we are is truly a taste of independent restaurants, no embellishments needed.

We have been fortunate to add more restaurants and vendors over the years, and the attendance has also grown apace. This year for the first time, we are using both sides of the beautiful Olmsted so people will have more room to enjoy themselves. It also puts the wonderful jazz singer Robbie Bartlett right in the center of things where she belongs.

This year, we are also partnering with Alpha Media and their five radio stations, which will hopefully help get even more people involved.

How do you hope the event changes in years to come?
There is still a lot room for growth – 40 restaurants is a lot, but there are so many more. We would love to see a lot more ethnic restaurants represented – how great would it be to enjoy a taste of a delicious Vietnamese pho or Thai mi krop or Korean barbecue wings or a sip of Nicaraguan pinolillo?

Since we are a locally based nonprofit, it seems fitting that at some point we might showcase some of our local food vendors, perhaps farmers or confectioners, or any of our small local food manufacturers.

Mostly, we hope that this becomes one of Louisville’s special events – an event where people who serve and cook and host can mingle and enjoy a Sunday afternoon with the folks who enjoy their hospitality every day. A Taste of Independents will keep evolving in flavors due to taste trends and people’s palates!

Is it too late to participate?
No, not at all! If you are a chef, restaurant owner or vendor, or if you would like to donate a silent auction item or experience, please send an email to garyf@aproninc.org. To buy tickets, go to aproninc.org/events. A Taste of Independents is open to the public and is a 21+ event. VT