A few years from now, when they’ve returned to the States after months of research, Paige Harte and Jason Rivera plan to open a market — called Shade Market — where they’ll serve provisions and possibly some prepared food, created from healthy, local sources, to their community. By doing so, they’d like to help people make real lifestyle changes that begin with their diets, making it easy for them to cook deliciously and healthfully at home.
Between now and then, the two Charlie Bird staffers — Harte is the maître d’; Rivera is a sous chef; both will leave the restaurant to begin this project — are embarking on a global voyage to begin effecting the change they’d like to see stem from their market. Their trip is part research, part education, and part attempt to use lessons from other cultures to guide people here toward better, healthier lifestyles.
“The intention is to help people eat more consciously,” says Harte. “For them to see how food makes them feel. We believe that eating healthfully — for yourself; we have no prescription for what that means — makes your life better. In the States, there are so many distractions, and people are no longer nourished. Other cultures can provide a form of education.”
Over the course of their travels, Harte and Rivera will document their journey, and they’ll put together a cookbook, too. “We want to enable people — through the book and the market — to cook well at home,” says Rivera. “So the cookbook will contain stories, pictures, and details about homecooking in other cultures. When we have our market, we’ll be selling what you need to cook that way. We provide that for you.”
Once they leave the States, they’ll head to Chiang Mai at the beginning of 2015, where they’ll work with a farm called Pun Pun, first taking a course in sustainable farming and living, and then staying on to volunteer and understand how Pun Pun feeds its local community and the two restaurants it supplies in Chiang Mai. They’ll go to Kerala in India, where they’ll learn Ayurvedic cooking and medicine. And they have plans to head to the Middle East, so they can understand innovations in raising food in the desert.
Along the way, they’ll attempt to forge relationships with producers who might eventually sell products in their market, though they emphasize they want to use the knowledge they gain more to help Americans eat better locally, not to prescribe, say, a Thai diet. “This is about a lifestyle,” says Harte. “This is not just to help people learn to make Thai food. It’s to be where you are, and to eat the food from there, to eat food that’s local and seasonal. People here eat avocados in February — why? That doesn’t make sense, but a lot of people probably don’t know that.”
“We want to become part of a movement that’s going on,” Rivera adds, explaining that education is the first step in helping people think more holistically about their diets; the market, the physical manifestation of that goal.
They head to Asia in January.