Chef Jason Alley basket (Photo Courtesy The FareTrade)
It’s no secret that Richmond’s culinary scene has experienced significant buzz, from regional awards to national praise, so it's no surprise that the city's chefs are now bringing their dishes into kitchens around the country. The FareTrade, based in Los Angeles and founded by Jake Ahles and Max Block, is a monthly subscription service that delivers a box with five artisan ingredients picked by award-winning chefs from around the country, plus five recipes that incorporate the ingredients, and access to step-by-step online video tutorials. For fans of dining in and out of Richmond, it's great news: The company's currently focusing on River City chefs, so you can make your favorite chefs' dishes at home, or send them as a gift to friends who can't enjoy them here in town.
“We really feel [Richmond] is at the forefront of where America’s culinary revolution is going, so we felt we really need to be a part of spotlighting these amazing chefs," says Block.
The current chef of the month is Richmond’s own Jason Alley, co-owner and chef of Pasture and Comfort. Alley's basket is full of Virginia-made goods including Texas Beach Bloody Mary Mix, Woodson’s Mill white corn grits and Byrd Mill dark peanut flour, with recipes for dishes such as peanut-crusted catfish, and grits with wild mushrooms and bourbon. Alley's basket is the first Richmond chef's available from The FareTrade, and it's the first of many to come; be on the lookout for curated baskets from Metzger Bar & Butchery's Brittanny Anderson, Dutch & Co.'s Caleb Shriver and Phil Perrow, and more.
Block and Ahles first got the idea to create the baskets while perusing Los
Angeles farmers markets. “It felt like there wasn’t an avenue for chefs and artisans to really get together in a collaborative way,” Block says. After some brainstorming, they came up with their business: “We thought, 'How do we work with a chef to create a really amazing elevated experience?'” The answer: The FareTrade, which launched in March of 2014. It has featured recipes and picks from James Beard Award-nominated and award-winning chefs including Minnesota-based Jamie Malone of Brut, California-based Michael Rotondo of The Ritz Carlton and New York-based JJ Johnson of The Cecil. All of the ingredients included are from American small-batch producers, meaning they’re smaller independent businesses and usually local to the featured chef. They’re items that those in the restaurant industry may use and be aware of, but the common consumer doesn’t know about. “You may never have discovered them if it wasn’t for the chef's relationship with them and us being able to put the pieces together,” Block says. That’s part of the mission of The FareTrade: to match food enthusiasts with artisan ingredients, forging a connection between innovative dishes and the creators behind them.
The cost for The FareTrade subscription service is $65 per month, with tax and shipping included. Every month the featured chef is announced online, and the subscriber can then decide if they would like to keep the basket, opt out or send it as a gift to someone else. Single baskets can also be purchased without the subscription, as can past chef-created baskets and even single products that have been included in past baskets.
“For us, we like to think that dinner should be an adventure,” Block says. “Having the ability to work with these chefs and discover these amazing artisans really gives [people] a chance to get to know the chefs behind these dishes.”