• Matt Kappra

In Search of Place

Updated: May 10, 2020

Growing up, I had the privilege of being rooted in a place. Surrounded by a family that loved and cared for each other. One that, regardless of its faults, I felt safe and grounded in it, and it's something I’ve been searching to recreate in my new surroundings ever since.

What is a place even? How do we define it? How do we become part of a place? To me, it’s the feeling you get inside of you when you know where you are in sync and flowing. Sometimes you feel it when you are alone, other times surrounded by family and friends, often in nature. The search for that feeling is intoxicating, it is the guiding force in all that you do, just to get a glimpse of it however fleeting it might be.

Today, for better or worse we are all rooted in place, physically, in ways we haven’t been in ages. And it has me wondering: What does it look like to lean into this moment? To create new systems in the vacuum left by all those systems that have now failed us?

I also spent a lot of my time growing up in a bubble – isolated from the real world and all its faults, raging inequities and dirty little secrets. After going away to college and seeing the rest of the world, that bubble popped; exploded is probably a more accurate word. And I’ve been searching ever since. Although adventures are fun and exciting, I can’t help but to feel lost in this journey, rudderless really, lacking a true north or guiding force.

I’ve begun to ask the question why? Why do I feel this way and how do I find myself again? I look back to when I felt grounded and how it made me feel. I look at the people and places that were around when I felt at home.

I’ve always found solace in cooking. I grew up on a stepping stool helping my grandmother make pasta, mix meatballs and stir gravy all day long. Although I don’t get to cook with her as much anymore, I’m still searching for it; the smells from her kitchen that are etched in my memory. When they appear I know I’m on the right path. They are smells that make your eyes well up for no apparent reason other than they are a reminder of a simpler and happier time in my life.

These experiences are what drove me to be a cook. I cooked to make people happy, to help them feel joy and bond over a good meal. I cooked with a level of connection and care that I know all chefs feel under all the external ego and bravado.

Ironically, being a chef in kitchens has forced down this search. I suffocated under the unrelenting grind, the need for consistency over change and creativity. Was brittled by the razor-thin margins. Was made smaller and smaller by the near constant fear of failure. Eventually, I reached a point where I could no longer function in the environment

This isn’t a unique story. The restaurant industry is notorious for grinding up creative souls, sending them to rehab and then off to try to work a “normal” job.

The restaurant industry was failing long before COVID-19 arrived. Most restaurants live one slow-ish month away from death, always. Then COVID-19 blew through and kicked the fragile legs out from under all of us.

What’s possible when we pull ourselves out of the status quo restaurant model and explore food in a different way? The system that has been flourishing for over a decade now is breaking right in front of our eyes. More and more restaurants are closing by the day and going back to normal isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Or ever. Supply chains will break down, if they haven’t already. Farms will go dark. Shortages will increase and an entire food industry will be forced to change.

Although it might seem daunting, there is so much opportunity to build something that is more resilient and sustainable. We have had it easy for too long and it will be difficult for folks to adapt to a new way of doing things but if we can see past the difficulty of it, exciting new ideas and communities will emerge.

How do we support one another as we search for a new way to feed ourselves and others? And, how do we just make dinner tonight, and tomorrow and all the days to come? As we sit at home these ideas and possibilities are brewing in all of us, how do we let it out into the world?

This is the start of that journey for us, actually just a reinvigoration of what we were trying to do 5 years ago. Now it feels more important to share that story and resources with everyone as we all look to navigate a new normal and build roots in place, the one that has been right in front of us the whole time.

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