Here's a sign that the local restaurant scene is coming together and picking up momentum: the kick-off dinner for the Sactown Dining Collective has quickly sold out at $45 per person.
The dinner is June 7 at Plates Café, the restaurant that trains homeless women to work in the hospitality industry. Several of the city's top chefs are involved in cooking and presenting this dinner. Chris Macias recently gave us details here about the upcoming event.
The Dining Collective is a new venture, and when it began to take shape a few months back, many in the restaurant business were skeptical. But thanks to the passion and organizational skills of Amber Turner, the group has taken off. Its mission: tell the story of the area's culinary talent and work together to grow and prosper. In other words, competition is good and healthy, but so is cooperation.
I recently caught up with Kimio Bazett of the Golden Bear. He's an enthusiastic member of the Sactown Dining Collective who says the city's recent failure to secure a new arena/entertainment complex shouldn't hold Sacramento back.
"I can't help but think the timing is excellent," Bazett said of the sold-out dinner. "It wasn't necessarily intended that way, but at a time when it seems Sacramento is not being valued as far as its talents and resources, we just took the reins and wanted to get the message out regarding the culinary talent and the nightlife in Sacramento."
The Dining Collective is a new way of looking at growing the business, he said.
"There is a tendency in this business to just want to look out for yourself. I've been guilty of that, too. But we all have common purposes and goals. The whole idea of cutthroat competition, that model doesn't work any more.
"It's important to let people know that most of us are all friends and in it together."
While it's too soon to say how the Sactown Dining Collective will function - and whether it will succeed - it's certainly a positive sign that chefs and restaurateurs see the potential to come together, learn from one another, push each other to get better and collaborate in various ways to promote the restaurant and bar scene. If Sacramento has a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to its restaurants, maybe this group will get the message out that there is plenty to brag about right here.
This opening dinner is a big deal and so is what happens with the group in the days and months to come. As the ideas begin to take shape, we'll be sure to share them with you via "Appetizers."
Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.