FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Daniele Inc. co-owner Davide Dukcevich gives a tour of the facility to Providence-Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau Vice President of Marketing and Communication Kristen Adamo, left, and President Martha Sheridan. The bureau is looking to find ways to partner around the idea of enhancing the state’s “foodie” reputation.
A growing belief Rhode Island can become the “Silicon Valley of food” is fueling new collaborations and community discussions that have the potential to catalyze business growth, industry leaders say.
Known for its award-winning chefs, restaurants and ethnic cuisine, particularly in Providence, which was recently named by Movoto Real Estate as America’s most exciting midsized city, Rhode Island’s love affair with food crops up everywhere in an ecosystem that spans farming, fishing, education, business innovation and corporate growth – along with movements focused on buying local, food access and food security.
“What you’re really seeing is, our community is at a golden moment in terms of momentum, and an emerging understanding of the impact that food companies can make in the U.S.,” said Allan Tear, a Betaspring co-founder who two years ago gave the idea a boost when he launched RallyRI, a project funded by the Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship.
With food as one of four areas of focus, the momentum for RallyRI “really picked up” with Daniele Inc. co-owner Davide Dukcevich’s declaration of the idea of the state as a “culinary valley” early last year, Tear added.
“It’s the right time in the country,” Tear added. “It’s the right time in Rhode Island, and it plays to our strengths. It’s already more than an idea. While people are in the talking stage, people are also doing.”
Transforming Rhode Island into a “culinary valley” will be part of a May 28 Food Matters community conversation series hosted by the Rhode Island Food Policy Council entitled: “How to grow a local food system: Rhode Island-based food businesses share their stories.”
“Rhode Island has all these advantages of geography, entrepreneurs and great food,” said Food Matters co-host Melina Packer, chairwoman of the work group for a thriving food economy. The question to be asked is: “How can we foster this culinary valley in a way that both contributes to the state economy and proves equitably beneficial to all Rhode Islanders?” she said.
Upcoming events such as the April 24-27 Rhode Island Eat Drink RI Festival, following closely on the heels of the 2014 American Culinary Federation Northeast Regional Conference that was held April 11-14 in Warwick and Providence, reflect the vibrant scene here for consumers and chefs alike.