David Leftwich and Randy Rucker will collaborate on a dinner, known as the Esculent Gathering, to be held Sunday June 10 at chef Monica Pope's restaurant T'afia in Midtown. Esculent means "a thing, fit to be eaten, especially a vegetable," which is appropriate as the meal itself will draw upon produce provided by local farmers and proceeds will benefit local food organization Urban Harvest. Leftwich is a talented home cook whose twitter feed is a continual stream of pictures of the dishes he creates with local produce. Rucker earned two stars from Houston Chronicle critic Alison Cook for the creative ways he incorporated local produce into the menu at the now closed Bootsie's Heritage Cafe in Tomball. Rucker and Leftwich previously collaborated when Rucker was still at Bootsie's on one of the restaurants "Reality Dinners;" the meal was featured in a review of Bootsie's by the Houston Press.
Eater spoke with Leftwich about his plans for the meal with Rucker and whether there will be more Esculent Gatherings in the future
Leftwich says the idea for the Gathering came to him during a conversation with Urban Harvest market manager Tyler Horne. "We were trying to think of some fun ways to raise some money for Urban Harvest" by working with local chefs who utilize local produce. Leftwich turned to Rucker because "we have similar ideas about food. It seemed like a natural to ask Randy to do it."
As for the meal, Leftwich hasn't decided on specific ingredients yet, but provides a basic framework for what diners can expect. "We're going to be doing multiple courses. The idea is to use primarily ingredients from the farmers' market ... and try to highlight items you can get there." In terms of specific dishes, Leftwich thinks there will be a mix of dishes that are his, Rucker's and collaborations between the two of them. "I'm excited to be working with Randy. It'll be fun to do another [dinner together]."
Leftwich is not ready to reveal whether other chefs have expressed interest but makes it clear that if the first Esculent Gathering is successful it could lead to more. Given both the increasing popularity of using local ingredients and the number of talented chefs still not in full-time kitchens, these gatherings could be the highlight of the summer.
Tickets to the Esculent Gathering are $60 with a $4.29 service fee. They may be purchased here.
· Bootsie's in Tomball Worth the Trek [Houston Chronicle]
· Bootsie's Kicks Butt [Houston Press]
· Esculent Gatherings: An Urban Harvest Chef Series [Urban Harvest]
· All Randy Rucker Stories on Eater Houston [-EHOU-]
T'afia, site of the Esculent Gathering[T'afia, Facebook]