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DIY Food Fair Dishes Up Detroit's Best Home Cooks' Savory Treats At MOCAD

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DIY FOOD FAIR MOCAD
At the DIY Food Fair at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, the city's best under-the-radar home cooks will prepare food at MOCAD, ranging from sushi to salsa, on Friday, June 1, 2012. | Alamy

If you've been missing Tastefest these past two years, you're in luck: An indie version is coming to Detroit, and for one night only, you can find homemade salsa, sushi and sweet potato waffles all in one place.

The DIY Food Fair will take over the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit Friday night, bringing entrepreneurial home chefs and smaller food and drink producers together under one roof to share their savory goodies. No chef here has a restaurant, and while some, like Anthology Coffee's roasters, are close to setting up a brick-and-mortar shop, others are just selling -- or giving away -- what they make to small groups of friends and those in the know.

Molly O'Meara, one of the founders of Beau Bien Fine Foods, says she's sold her small-batch jams through events and a website since she and Noelle Lothamer started the company in 2010. Both women love to cook, and the simple enjoyment of cooking and serving food was one of the main motivators to the business.

"Food is community-driven," O'Meara said. "It's satisfying to make food for people and have them go away full and say 'that was awesome.' You're filing this basic need that, surprisingly, has been a gaping hole in this community for so long."

In addition to jam, visitors Friday evening will get a chance to sample food from the Dunch Club, the Batata Shop, Esperanza Salsa, Stuffed, Dr. Sushi, Sofia's Selection, the Detroit Zen Center and the aforementioned Anthology Coffee.

Ben Hernandez, MOCAD's public programs curator, sees the evening as a culinary version of a science fair, giving people a chance to learn about the food and its makers, both for visitors and the cooks themselves. Rather than a walk-and-eat setup, visitors will sit down at each stand and chat face-to-face, supposedly meeting new people in the process.

"We thought it related really closely to the 'Post-Industrial Complex' show," Hernandez said, about the current MOCAD show highlighting the work of local makers who may not always be identified as artists. "It's all people independently producing something."

For O'Meara and the other food makers, independent doesn't just mean small, but a commitment to quality and best practices, like using local ingredients. Beau Bien Fine Foods is working on expanding, slowly, but O'Meara doesn't expect their jam, with flavors like cherry port and plum cardamom, to ever be sold at large corporate grocery stores.

"The focus is going to be on quality and creativity as opposed to mass distribution," O'Meara said. "We'd rather grow creatively and intentionally, our focus is on maintaing the artisanal homemade process and being hands-on."

"When it comes down to it, in Detroit the model that's proven is starting really small and building your business organically," she added.

If you come away from the DIY Food Fair satiated but hankering for more meat -- there is a focus, which is coincidental, on vegetarian cuisine -- fear not, because on Saturday, an entirely different yet definitely delicious food gathering is coming to Royal Oak: BaconFest.

The DIY Food Fest runs from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, June 1, 2012 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 4454 Woodward Avenue.

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