Chef Hal Holden-Bache of Lockeland Table has been cooking with love in his heart since at least age 8. That’s when he began giving his “hard-working mother some time off,” he says. “I enjoyed cooking more than I did my homework. She allowed me to do that.”
He also realized he liked to cook because he liked to eat. “At some point in time you gotta learn to feed yourself,” he says.
The love--and independence--that comes along with learning to cook was a theme important to both Holden-Bache and Lockeland'sPastry Chef Jaime Miller. The two chefs visited The Nashville Food Project this year as volunteers.
Jaime, a chef-participant in TNFP's first RISE event last December, took an interest in hospitality as a way to find freedom in life. She wanted to be on her own at age 15. So, she graduated high school early and found work in restaurants as soon as she could. But even as she sought independence, the experiences helped her appreciate family. “It made me realize how talented my mom was,” she says.
At The Nashville Food Project, Miller and Holden-Bache’s experience and talent showed as they floated effortlessly around the kitchen to prepare a gourmet meal for 75 men and women who reside at the John Glenn Residential Center in North Nashville.
The ingredients for their meal had been gleaned or donated from at least six different sources. Miller worked on a sheet pan of cubed sweet potatoes from Delvin Farms laced with kale that had been donated from a local catered event. She added apple gleaned from Whole Foods Market along with raisins and garlic before drizzling it with honey and slipping it into the oven.
Meanwhile, Holden-Bache prepped pork loin and pancetta donated earlier this year after a meat conference at Gaylord Opryland Hotel. He flavored the pork with onion, mushroom and sherry from TNFP cupboards.
The community effort that is cooking in the TNFP kitchens was a perfect match for these talented chefs.
Community, after all, is a word that’s important to both Holden-Bache and Miller. They begin dinner service at the restaurant each night with Community Hour, a play on Happy Hour that offers a portion of proceeds from specially priced drinks and small plates to local causes.
Holden-Bache preferred “community table” over “café or restaurant” when naming his place. Because in thinking about feeding Nashville, he wanted to say: “We’re here for you.”
And he also says he felt drawn to the word community while reading TNFP’s mission statement: Bringing people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in our city.
“Food should be something we’re all able to do,” he says both in terms of access and preparation. He’s careful not to take it for granted by working to reduce food waste at the restaurant, to give back when he can and to reflect on his good fortune when he enjoys a meal.
“This is so good,” he recalled saying between bites to a friend recently, “We’re lucky, man.”