To sum up Eat Y’all in 2017: 17 events in 32 cities, sampling and advocating for the best Southern grown and made ingredients, connecting with chefs and much more… here’s a look at Eat Y’all’s year in review plus a preview of what we’ve got in store for 2018.
I admit, I was more than a little ready for the clean slate presented with the new year. With this past year under our belts, 2018 holds immense opportunity for us here at Eat Y’all – like nothing I’ve experienced before in my career, and the holiday break gave us a chance to catch our breath, reorganize our systems, reconnect with friends and family – and reenergize in preparation for the year ahead!
When I stopped long enough to see where we’d been, I counted 17 events, 32 cities or regions where we made significant stops and investment and 9 major expansion projects that we tackled in a significant way on behalf of our partners, all with a tiny team of under 10 people. I didn’t stop long enough to add up the miles or the words written or the number of social media posts or emails sent… but I can tell you that literally millions of impressions were made and hundreds of thousands of emails were sent… and we even got a new car at the end of October to keep us rolling – and we managed to roll over another 6,000 miles during “slow months” of November and December.
But what does all of that mean?
Our mission at Eat Y’all is to build up the best Southern grown and made products – and the chefs who use them. Everyday. Anywhere.
One way that we do that is by featuring these ingredients as well as their amazing chef advocates at our signature events, tasting events and special suppers throughout the year.
In 2017, our Eat Y’all Chef Camp series stand out among our event line-up. It’s always a good time when you get to spend a day on the farm with a dozen or so talented chefs learning, exploring, cooking and playing in the fresh air. We couldn’t be more excited to have four Chef Camps planned each in different spots across the South in 2018. (If you’re a chef that would be interested in attending one of these dates, please complete the form here for more information.)
Events & Happenings
Another 2017 highlight was a collaboration with VEA Supper Club, Creation Gardens and Blackberry Farms Brewery for a special dinner hosted at Biscuit Love in Nashville. Chefs Vivek Surti from VEA Supper Club in Nashville and Vishwesh Bhatt from Snackbar in Oxford, Mississippi, showcased our partner ingredients in stunning fashion, and the dishes were perfectly paired with our new favorite beers from Blackberry Farms Brewery.
The Southern Whiskey Society was an epic occasion where we featured nine exceptionally talented and award-winning Southern chefs at our Eat Y’all Chef Spotlights located around the event tasting floor, all featuring our partner ingredients. The chefs not only enjoyed networking with guests who traveled from around the South to attend this premier event, but many also enjoyed participating in live interviews on The Podcask podcast.
We wrapped up 2017 with international flair by hosting the Southern US Trade Association delegates and their international trade partners from around the globe for a very special farm to table dinner featuring outstanding Southern ingredients, including a giant cheese board display featuring artisanal cheeses and accompaniments from nearly every Southern state. This event was a true honor and privilege to host, and it was just about the best Christmas gift we could have been given to be allowed celebrate the season among such like-minded new friends.
From our own signature events to our 2017 partnership with MADE SOUTH to participation in fundraising events to help feed the hungry and sponsored receptions to showcase our favorite ingredients, our 2017 was definitely chocked full! Yet, while events get most of the buzz, they’re really only a small part of our overall program of work.
Eat Y’all: Networking & Sampling to Chefs
We also spend a considerable amount of time visiting one on one with chefs to talk about how they can integrate our favorite products into their menus or utilize them on special occasions.
In 2017, we worked with approximately 300 chefs in 12 states in various capacities, and we anticipate that number to more than double in 2018. From Simmons Catfish debuting at The Noble South to Graham Shrimp Co.’s launch at Serpas Restaurant in Atlanta as well as on the opening menu at Gray & Dudley in Nashville to the announcement of Two Brooks Farm rice products at PeachDish, we are always on task to chefs more easily connect with the highest quality Southern products that are reliably available for their use.
Digital Media: A Critical Component
Our work wouldn’t be complete without the creation of a considerable volume of content about our favorite Southern grown products, chefs and events published thru our own digital media outlets as well as our work as a trusted resource to help other media outlets do the same.
This past year we saw an explosion in our own social media reach, exceeding over ONE MILLION impressions per month across our channels. What?!?
And Yes, We Have Fun
Admittedly, there was some fun thrown into our year, too…
Andy and I were privileged to be invited to Blackberry Farm to learn about their farm and brewery operation by participating in their Smokey Mountain Table event as well as behind-the-scenes tour of their brewery. Their brand of hospitality is simply perfect and unmatched – I suspect because it’s truly authentic and not a gimmick or a system to those executing it. All that to say, this girl’s a fan, and that “day at work” will live among my all-time favorites for a while to come, I imagine.
In November, Andy enjoyed filling a professional restaurant reviewer role on an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s new FOX show. The episode was filmed in Greenville, Mississippi and… Fun insider fact: I couldn’t attend the filming, so Andy appears on the show dining with an old college friend from Greenville who knew everyone else in the restaurant during the filming!
We welcomed Angel Lanier-White as our new Event Coordinator in 2017. She pulled off three events in the last quarter of the year without breaking a sweat. She’s an amazing, enthusiastic addition to our team.
After enjoying our largest summer intern class ever – and also the most talented, we’re pleased to be welcoming several more full and part time team members to our team in early 2018 including in-house professional videography and photography.
Recipe creation continues to be a passion of Andy’s, and while we didn’t share a lot of them in 2017 – a lot were created and even more are in the works for 2018. Our failure to share them last year may go down as one of our greatest failures, because his simple approach and brilliant palate really blows my mind most nights when we’re home. Maybe this is the year they’ll make their way into your home, too!
Our summer 2017 ice cream editorial series called Ice Cream Season set new records for story readership. It turns out that y’all really love the combination of local dairy and local ice cream makers. We can’t wait to take your love for this topic and raise it to a new level in 2018.
We announced the Eat Y’all Supper Society in the fall of 2017 and were blown away by the overwhelming response. To be honest, it took us a minute to regain our composure with all the opportunities that came flying seemingly the second we announced it! Not to worry though; soon we’ll be unveiling our six locations for these destination Supper Society dinners to be held in Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.
Last but certainly not least, rumors were out in late 2017 that our Eat Y’all Podcast would return in 2018. The rumors are indeed true, and we’ve already recorded our first few episodes. If you’re ready to go behind the scenes with the most amazing Southern grown and made products, award-winning chefs and authors… well, we’ve got some good, approachable culinary dish in store for you! Stay tuned!
Our family is healthy and happy, and that is perhaps our greatest praise of this past year! Our kids are another year older… including a senior in high school this year! We enjoyed a family trip to the Grand Canyon and surrounding area this summer and admired more scenery than food for more than a week. The kids are wonderful treasures that thankfully, also love to travel and cook. You know that saying, too many cooks in kitchen? I’m thankful for that reality at my house!
Andy coached our youngest daughter’s soccer team this fall and even found time to play a few more rounds of golf this year than last. I made walking a regular part of my daily routine for the first time in years and read dozens of books – mostly about business, admittedly. And for the first time in our lives, we made it to the Smokies to see the fall color (and ate well along the way). Bucket list item checked off.
In short, we get up every day trying to connect the South’s best ingredients with chefs and discerning foodies anywhere. Connecting. It’s what we do – and we love every minute of it.
Thank you for being part of our journey in 2017, and we look forward to welcoming you along every step of the way in 2018! Cheers!