Of all the dinners he’s cooked, this one scares chef Joe Kindred the most.
When the influential Southern Foodways Alliance comes to Charlotte Thursday-Saturday for a summer symposium, “El Sur Latino,” Joe and Katy Kindred have a special assignment: The Future Tense Dinner, a final meal to showcase Charlotte traditions, the city’s growing Latino influences, and their own lives as cooks.
“I’m nervous,” Joe Kindred admits. “We’ve worked harder on this than on any challenge we’ve ever had.”
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For six months, the owners of Davidson’s popular restaurant Kindred have explored, shopped and eaten. They’ve found cooking partners – Victor Santiago and his niece, Nereyda Mali of Tacos El Nevado – who will make hand-pressed tortillas and salsas for the dinner, as well as dessert, a cross between flan and chocolate cake.
They got advice from Tom Hanchett, retired curator of the Levine Museum of the New South, and UNC Charlotte professor Eric Hoenes del Pinal. They looked beyond Latino foods and went to events like the annual Tet Festival at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and the Korean New Year dinner at China Wing.
“I don’t take it lightly that we’re cooking for the SFA,” Joe Kindred says. “(John T. Edge, director of the SFA) is one of those visionaries who really lets you do your thing.”
The result is a seven-course menu that goes places Charlotte food usually doesn’t go. Whole N.C. fish inspired by both fish camps and Peruvian corn nuts. Lamb shoulder braised in avocado leaves with mezcal. Grilled corn with caviar and creme fraiche flavored with the Mexican corn smut called huitlacoche. Baked field peas flavored with smoked pineapple and seasoned like tacos al pastor.
And cricket flour.
Yes. They’re making pasta from a high-protein flour made of roasted, ground crickets, inspired by chapulines, the fried-grasshopper tacos served in Oaxaca. (They ordered 25 pounds of the flour online, so expect it to pop up on Kindred’s menu occasionally, too.)
For the Kindreds, it also became a journey through their own histories.
“Our entire relationship has been centered around food and cooking,” Katy Kindred says. While Katy is known for her wine expertise, Joe says she’s as much of a cook as he is.
“We challenge each other,” he says. “She knows my food so well.”
The Southern Foodways event isn’t cheap: The 2 1/2-day symposium costs $465 and includes talks by a dozen experts and cooking by a dozen Charlotte-area chefs, including Paul Verica, Laura Gonzalez Perez, Bruce Moffett, Zhenia Martinez, Jim Noble, Majid Amoorpour and Hally Chirinos. More than 150 people have signed up to attend.
Before it rolls into town, we asked the Kindreds to share a few of their favorite discoveries and inspirations from their research.
“It was an eye-opener, how much culture is in Charlotte,” Katy Kindred says. “Everybody thinks we’re known for barbecue. There’s so much more.”