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Savor Summer: Chefs and the Community

July 13, 2015

Food plays a big role in creating community, especially in Nashville.

The kitchen was the gathering place in my home growing up so food always plays prominently in my family memories, like the way eating a chocolate chip cookie always feel like getting a great big hug! But since leaving my parent’s home, my husband and I have enjoyed exploring the local restaurant scene in Nashville. And who wouldn’t? This year Nashville has been ranked in the top ten on Zagat’s “New Hot Food Cities”, number 11 on Travel+Leisure’s “Best Cities for Foodies” and second “Most Barbeque Obsessed City” by Heck, one of our local chefs is even on Food Network Star!

One of the reasons I love eating out in this city is that it feels like my dad cooked those meals for me. Not so much in the quality or type of food, but in the way it makes me feel. Local chefs focus on cooking for the community like they are your family. For instance, in an interview with David Swett, Jr he talked about the way they have cooked at Swett’s since his grandfather started the restaurant.

We cook everyday as if we are cooking for our own family. That’s just the way we go about it. We require that from the people that are cooking in the kitchen. If you cook like you are cooking for somebody you love, you always do a good job.

This focus on cooking with love has led to three generations of Swett family members serving up barbeque to students at nearby Fisk University, Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University.

Newer Nashvillians are also adopting this philosophy for their businesses. Javaneh Hemmat, founder of Hummus Chick, channels her Persian roots and passion for cooking for friends into every batch of hummus she makes.

Did you know that when we were living in that loft, making hummus was one of the first things I ever learned to make? And today, it’s become my business - my little company, Hummus Chic., I remember every batch I make I would try to make it better than the last one. And I loved sharing it with you and my friends and it created a community around us.

Nashville may be growing, but it is becoming a foodie destination at least in part because of the love that is poured into the food being created here.

What is your food memory? Share it in the comments below or #SavorSummer

For more of David Swett’s interview or interviews with restaurateurs and other business leaders, check out The Nashville Business Leaders Oral History Collection or hear clips in our digital collection.

Javaneh Hemmat was interviewed as part of the New Faces of Nashville Oral History Collection, accessible in the Special Collections Division at the Main Library.

Also check out “Nashville Eats” an oral history project by the Southern Foodways Alliance, conducted partly in partnership with Nashville Public Library.

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Amber loves learning more about her city and the world through books and stories. She currently works with Bringing Books to Life! where she gets to share stories with boys and girls throughout Nashville.