Every two weeks, we gather for a moment of authentic human connection with our virtual seminar series, The Human Touch. We cover a wide range of topics and often have guest speakers with unique stories join us to tell their tale. In December 2020, we were accompanied by Chef Sam Diminich of Your Farms Your Table who shared his story of pivoting in the pandemic.
A Fresh Idea for Fresh Food
One of the most overused words of the year 2020 was “pivot.” But when the word fits the word fits. Chef Sam Diminich had one of Charlotte’s most significant pandemic pivots and we were delighted to have him as our guest for The Human Touch at the end of December 2020. He joined us from his kitchen, of course.
Chef Sam began 2020 flying high. In January, his episode of Beat Bobby Flay aired. (Spoiler Alert: He beat Bobby Flay with a lobster risotto.) There was a viewing party at the restaurant, Upstream, where he was executive chef.
Plans for Upstream were ambitious. Phillips Place, where the restaurant is located, was completing some renovations and visibility for the restaurant was expected to be even better. And then in mid-March, the restaurant closed as the county went into COVID-19 lockdown.
A divorced dad, providing for two children, Sam needed to do something while the restaurant remained closed so he started exploring options. Then he got the call that changed everything, “I got a call from a farmer I’ve been working with a long time.”
“He just had a desperate tone in his voice, he didn’t know what he was going to do. Restaurants were closing down, and he had a whole season’s worth of crops and didn’t know what he was going to do with them.”
It came together pretty quickly. Sam needed to make a living; farmers had crops with orders canceled. And there were people all over Charlotte trapped in their homes.
Bringing The Farm to Your Table
He told the farmer, Isaac at Harmony Ridge Farms in Winston-Salem that he had a plan. The plan was to create a three-course meal and that he would take the crops that the farm needed to go first. Your Farms Your Table was born.
He is quick to give credit to the solutions-based fellowship of Ben’s Friends, a group focused on sobriety and addiction support in the food and beverage industry, for his problem-solving mindset.
He started in his Cotswold kitchen doing ten meals a night, delivering them with his pitbull by his side.
Now Chef Sam operates out of City Kitch, a commercial kitchen space on Thrift Road in the burgeoning West Charlotte area, along with 17 other food entrepreneurs. He provides dinner Monday through Saturday. And this year he is adding lunch.
Food is in his blood. “I grew up in a restaurant family. My grandfather was from Italy. He came over in 1952. Four years later he opened up the first Italian restaurant in Myrtle Beach, which is where I am from.”
“I am one of five siblings and we all worked in the restaurant.” “For me growing up I thought it was the coolest thing to come to my dad’s restaurant after school or baseball practice and walk in the kitchen and feel the energy and the pace and the excitement. All the boxes for senses were checked with the aromas of the food that we cooked and served. And the undercurrent of that was taking care of people.”
And that translates to this time, “We still have food. It hasn’t been lost. Food is so powerful and so unifying and the way the world is sometimes; we can still agree on that.”
Watch Our Human Touch Episode With Chef Sam
Some Closing Thoughts
From beating Bobby Flay to closing shop due to a pandemic to starting a fresh farm-to-table meal delivery service, Chef Sam Diminich had quite a year in 2020. Food is and always will be at the center of Chef Sam’s story and we thank him for sharing his words (and delicious meals) with us!