Filipino. Greek. All-American. European-inspired. What do you get when you put together three up-and-coming chefs and two bakers? If you’re local event planner Molly Alvarado, you get a brand new community event, richly inspired by tradition and ready to delight modern palates, Tacoma-style.

It’s no secret that Tacoma is making its mark on the map with diverse culinary talent. Too often, however, great chefs are tucked away, working solo, and don’t get a chance to combine their talents or really connect with the community.

Tacoma’s first annual Pig Roast and Talent Show is a farm-to-table event that is set to change all that. The evening will bring together diverse local talent for a night to remember. Guests will be treated to a five-course meal with live entertainment as they watch the sunset at beautiful Point Ruston. The community is also welcome to bring lawn chairs and watch the entertainment portion for free, which will charm with local acts.

Molly's Grandmother
The dinner is inspired by Molly’s grandmother, shown here with her horse Cannonball, or Can Can for short. Photo courtesy: Molly Alvarado

The Pig Roast is inspired by a tradition started in Cody, Wyoming, by Molly’s beloved grandmother, Caroline. Caroline knew she wanted to marry a cowboy, so she and Molly’s aunt hit the road at age 18 to find them. She met Molly’s grandfather, who rode bronco rodeos in the summer and served as a mountain guide for hunters during the winter. Caroline was a camp cook and a spirited woman. “She was the kind of woman everyone knew by her first name,” says Alvarado.

Growing up, Molly and her siblings and cousins were part of Caroline’s annual Hog Farm breakfasts. Her grandfather would play his fiddle and her grandmother would step away from the cooking duties to strum her guitar. Molly remembers the kids would get new straw hats every year for the event, and select aprons from a box to wear. They would create handmade menus and placemats. The kids would seat and serve all the guests. People came from far and wide, filling her grandparents’ property with lawn chairs and folding tables. There were even flowers in bottles for decoration. As her grandmother and aunt cooked, Molly’s father helped keep it all running smoothly.

“We all came together each year. It’s where I learned to serve the community from a young age,” she notes.

The highlight of the whole event was the show. Guest would perform skits, sing, or dance a jig. Each year, the kids would be called on to sing a country song or maybe a Shirley Temple classic together. One year, she remembers her shy brother lip-synching to Michael Jackson. It was an event where everyone felt comfortable, appreciated each other’s quirky talents, and laughed and enjoyed each other.

Jan Parker
Jan Parker Cookery brings Filipino cuisine to the table with spirit and flair. Photo credit: Elka A Photography

To bring this tradition to present-day Tacoma, three chefs and a pair of bakers have been working together. Jan Parker of Jan Parker Cookery brings Filipino cuisine to the South Sound through her booth at the Proctor Farmer’s Market and special events such as Boodle Fight traditional Filipino military-style dinners. Telly Christanis of Hellenic Kitchen celebrates his Greek heritage through his creations. You can also find him cooking at the iconic Top of Tacoma. Joel Milasich is a chef at the popular spot The Red Hot, which features gourmet hot dogs, vegan dogs, and local beer. Antje Kablitz and Jess Christensen of Local Bun create small-batch artisan baked goods, with delights ranging from the Strawberry Milkshake Sandwich Cookie to Brown Butter Hand Pies. After living in Germany, the pair have been selling their artful treats around Tacoma. Jan, Telly, and the Local Bun duo all met Alvarado through their vendor booths at La Paloma Marketplace (read more about La Paloma here).

The chefs got together at Alvarado’s house to plan the Pig Roast (with Antje and Jess coming on board soon after) and dream up a one-of-a-kind menu. All the ingredients are locally grown and sourced, and the feast is planned around seasonal harvest. The pig itself is from Stewart’s Meat Market. “It’s an ambitious endeavor,” notes Alvarado. Roasting a whole pig is a 10 to 12 hours process. The team will be starting at 3:00 a.m. and working in shifts to pull it off.

This year’s menu will feature whole roasted pork, seasonal salad greens with walnut vinaigrette, roasted fingerling potatoes, whole roasted acorn squash soup, Parker House rolls with smoked salt butter, apple streusel, locally sourced wines and coffee (so there’s plenty for vegetarians, too).

Local Chefs Ashley Jan Molly
Event planner Molly Alvarado, center, celebrates with Jan Parker, right, and local textile designer and La Paloma vendor Ashley Leisseigne of Zydeco and Jazz. Photo courtesy: Molly Alvarado

All proceeds benefit the new La Paloma Marketplace Artisan Incubator Program that provides “small business grants, entrepreneur education, and other resources to emerging Tacoma artists and creative small business owners.”

In talking with Alvarado, a generous-hearted mentor with a community vision, she stresses that the market is about providing growth opportunities for creative vendors from all walks of life, from veterans to people with disabilities to single parents and retirees who count on the market for extra income. “I see the program just like incubating a chicken egg by caring for it, keeping it warm, and helping it hatch and grow,” Alvarado says. Like her grandmother, Alvarado believes in celebrating what each person can do – because that’s how you build a community.

Seating for the dinner is limited, so purchase tickets early to reserve your sport. Since wine will be served, the dinner is for ages 21 and over (the community entertainment portion is all-ages).

The First Annual Pig Roast and Talent Show will take place Friday, September 28, 2018 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at 5005 Ruston Way, Tacoma, WA 98407.

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