"one cook, one musician, one artist. one dinner. the new guard is a series to fête the up-and-coming, the rising—not the fleeting, but the arrival—of a new legion of creators." hopegrocery.com
I had such an amazing time last month at The New Guard's dinner (which took place October 29th in Capitol Hill, with Eliot Guthrie, Kate Tucker, and Gala Bent) that I wanted to hear all about how this project had come together from the people behind it, the curators themselves. So I asked local Seattle artist Joey Veltkamp, photographer Sarah Jurado (who was/still is in Europe with Damien Jurado, on tour) and fabulous Whitney Ricketts to share impressions about this exciting venture.
How did the idea for The New Guard came about?
Joey: This was Whitney's idea. ALL Whitney! And if she tries to say otherwise, she's fooling you! I believe her primary inspiration was Hebb's one pot dinners and also her desire to throw fantastic parties. At a certain point, she realized that (for her vision) something was missing - art. So she pulled in Damien and Sarah to curate music and pulled me in to select artists.
I started talking about "the new guard" last year, loosely using the term to describe cooks I saw and heard doing great work. I have no horse in the restaurant race, and arguably no qualifications for selecting cooks. I just spend a lot of time in restaurants, and have a lot of friends who work in restaurants -- and no idea which came first. I started toying with the idea of doing a dinner series, a practice familiar to me from all my nights setting one pot tables. I approached Joey and Sarah and Damien, three people I really consider to be both connectors and very, very talented. Joey and I often have long Saturday summits over brunch at Smith, and one morning, I asked him if he'd entertain curating the art side of a dinner project. Fittingly, I met him two years ago at a one pot with implied violence; he was sketching the evening. Joey's an amazing artist; I'm having him design a tattoo for me so I'll have an original Joey Veltkamp piece on me forever, that's how much I love his work and trust his aesthetic. my favorite thing about Joey is that he's not at all insular; he wants to include everyone, and he's made a very rich life doing that. I met Sarah and Damien Jurado through my dear friend Jamie Spiess (who plays under the name Husbands, Love Your Wives) a while back. Damien's been a mentor to Jamie, and to so many people in music here, and his wife and manager, Sarah, is the most angelic, talented person. I grabbed lunch with Sarah on a bright sunny day in the summer and asked if she and Damien might be interested in doing the music arm of the dinner project. She said yes and then all of a sudden, this little bird of a dream took flight.
What is the motivation behind it?
The primary idea behind The New Guard is to recognize the talents of
the up-and-comers. Not the current establishment, but folks who are
just emerging to become tomorrow's industry leaders.
Whitney: The motivation, I think for all of us (Joey, Sarah, Damien and me) is to expose others to things we're excited about. Joel Cox cooked the first dinner. He's one of my closest friends, and coincidentally happens to be a great cook -- he trained with Dario Cecchini in Italy, works on a farm on Vashon on Sundays, and makes the most beautiful, delicate pasta by hand. He was the pasta guy for Spinasse for 9 months, from November of 2008 until he left in July. Joel is an example of what I wanted to highlight: here is this 25-year-old kid with amazing discipline, a great attitude, who is very aware of the skills he wants to acquire before he has his own restaurant. And he's worked in some of Seattle's best already: Spinasse, Lark, Corson (Building).
Joey: As I understand it, Hope Grocery is the domain name Whit and Michael selected for a future project. Since it wasn't being used, she co-opted it for the New Guard dinners.
Sarah: Whitney is the event's heart and sou land visionary. She can probably answer many things even better than I can!
Whitney: Hope Grocery is the name of my production company. I wanted to give it a place name, something hokey, but something also having to do with food. I came up with the name in the car on the way to the coast with my family, and they ridiculed it the entire trip, but I wouldn't give it up. It's corny. I'm corny, and sentimental, and gushy. The name fits. The New Guard is entirely not for profit -- we lost money on the first one, broke even on the second. we don't make any money from it, and that's on purpose to make it affordable; the dinners are zany, warm, frenetic -- like an evening with your eccentric family.
Joey: It's a pretty loose structure, but I hope this continues for at least a year. From a curatorial perspective, it's a real fun challenge. The first focus for me is always, "Who embodies the spirit of New Guard?". After that I'm curious about the location. If the dinner is going to be held in an airplane hangar (and we're hoping one will), delicate drawings won't work. We'll need something loud and big and sculptural! The next consideration is who are the other collaborators? We don't want a disparate mishmash. We want to build thoughtful, well-considered relationships between it all. I really view it as four elements - music, food, art + space. Also, there's a particular artist I'd like to show who does beautiful rococo drawings of animal parts (like tongues, etc) and so we might end up doing an offal dinner (for the adventurous).
Whitney: We'll be doing dinners every month for the unforeseeable future. The next chef lined up to cook is Brian Cartenuto from Cantinetta. He's a departure, somewhat, from the "behind-the-scenes" mold. Here's this kid from Florida, by way of a tenure cooking on cruise ships and some time in NYC and DC, who walked into his own restaurant in Seattle. He's a friendly, schmaltzy, schmoozer of a guy -- "discovered" in the way that he has his own restaurant, but he's still the new kid in town. Cantinetta is an Italian restaurant, but Brian's dinner will be entirely french, something I asked him to do, because his training has been mostly in French food, and he loves to talk about it, so I want him to show us what he's got. Dana Cree (from Poppy) will cook the dinner after Brian's -- she's going to make deconstructed holiday food, to toy with the nostalgia and other emotions entangled in the tradition of thanksgiving and Christmas dining. Other cooks lined up include Tyler Palagi from Spring Hill and Josh Henderson from Skillet. I'm really excited to see what sort of dinner food Josh will make, seeing as he's created an empire serving lunch out of an Airstream trailer. I've seen potential menus. That man is talented!
Any other thoughts?
Joey: This has really become my favorite project to be a part of. Outside of working with Sarah/Damien and Whitney (who are all pure gold!), it fosters this community spirit of love that I just can't get it enough. They really do feel like they're nourishing the body and soul, as cliche as that sounds. And people seem real hungry for that right now.Sarah: Thank you so much for your support of our 'baby' - I literally feel like a proud parent. It's all a labor of love for us, and it's an honor to see it recognized.
Whitney: Regarding Hope Grocery, I'm toying with some other ideas to fall under the umbrella -- maybe a pr/consulting wing, maybe some literary journal projects. The next event will take place November 22.
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