I had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Heide, chef, and restauranteur a few weeks back. We were able to talk about masks, BLM, the fate of restaurants in Madison, PPP, and about a million other smaller tangents. The conversation was informative and engaging but most impressive, it was simply fun. It felt like catching up with an old friend, which before COVID would have felt more normal. But since COVID and the shutting down of many restaurants, some temporarily, some permanently, it felt like a special glimmer of hope.
Creating More Than Just Food
Dave Heide is an impressive figure. He’s the owner of Liliana’s, Charlie’s on Main, Little John’s and recently was a key figure in the Nom Nom Nom kits. If you’re not familiar with his work, almost every project has a twist. Liliana’s offered cooking classes pre-COVID, Charlie’s on Main has a speakeasy-style bar hidden behind a bookcase, Little John’s is a non-profit restaurant where patrons pay-what-they-can for meals and the Nom Nom Nom kits partnered local restaurants with farmers to create takehome meals during COVID.
“I don’t like traditional. I think it’s boring and lame!” Heide tells me as I ask him about the reason behind the twists in his projects. But another obvious focus in Heide’s projects is his relationship with the community.
For many years restaurants have been seen as a core part of the community; they are places where people from all backgrounds are able to come together in ways that don’t often happen elsewhere. This is their opportunity to step more profoundly into that role, to serve their community and in turn, have their community support them. Hong tells me that this is the time for businesses to get creative. With very little help from local or state governments, if restaurants don’t rethink their business model, there is very little hope of survival.