If you've traveled a bit and love food, there's always that moment about month after you return when you really long for that country's cuisine. Well, a new nonprofit in town is seeking to satisfy that craving with a permanent open-air food market featuring immigrant- and refugee-owned mobile food businesses serving up favorites from their home countries.
The organization is called MarketShare, and it's determined to not only bring underrepresented cuisines to Seattle, but also give its Fellows (chefs) a chance at the American Dream. MarketShare is kicking off the launch of its first two mobile food businesses--Kenyan and Filipino cuisine from fellows Jackie Nkirote and Rosario Carver, respectively--on Saturday, March 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Garfield Community Center. The event will, of course, feature food, plus live music, a silent auction and beer and wine. Get your tickets here.
I grabbed some time with MarketShare founder Philip Deng to find out more about his endeavor and his future plans.
Jon Meyer: What's MarketShare's mission?
Philip Deng: To encourage the development of small food stall businesses from immigrant and refugee communities in order to share opportunity, empower community and bring a vast menu of delicious foods to the attention of Seattle diners. The key to understanding our vision, however, is to understand that the way we serve our mission will evolve over three phases. Right now, we are building two businesses to show people what is possible, a proof of concept. Once that's up and running we need to turn this experience into a story that gets Seattle talking about the possibilities for more great food and entrepreneurship. Finally, when we've got enough of this city dreaming of the permanent indoor street-food market we envision, it will be MarketShare's role to orchestrate the motions of our entire city to #BuildTheMarket.
JM: What were some of the factors that came together to make this possible?
PD: The idea of the market itself is very easy to communicate and people get excited about it. The difficult part was figuring out a feasible way to reach that goal. Many conversations and a lot of research led me to formulate our current three-phase strategy. Then, almost immediately, people began to see where they could fit in and I recruited my team with the promise that I would put challenges in front of them that are so enthralling they won't be able to put them down. I also can't say enough about our organizational partners, the Bainbridge Graduate Institute at Pinchot. They were among my first advisers when I walked in to their campus unannounced many months ago. They gave me helpful feedback and connected me with many of the other people who helped shape MarketShare's development. Since that time they have consulted with our team and we have been holding many of our events in a space they have graciously made available to us. MarketShare is very fortunate that this institution exists in our city.
JM: What are you most excited about so far?
PD: The most exciting thing for me thus far has been connecting with our Fellows. We told ourselves early on when things were still in a very conceptual phase of development that soon we would meet the two people whose lives we would be helping to shape. Now they're here! Their names are Jackie and Rosario, and each week we are learning more about them and what motivates them. Their stories are already so compelling and our job is to share all of this good stuff with Seattle to get them fired up about a market in our future!
JM: What are some of the cuisines and cultures that Seattle should get ready to sample?
PD: Broadly speaking, Kenyan and Filipino to begin with. Kenyan food isn't widely represented in our community and we're excited to help Jackie introduce Seattle to some of the foods she ate as a child growing up in Kenya. Filipino food is beginning to become more mainstream, but we've also noticed that most Filipino menus revolve around a few popular dishes. We're exploring food that is more unique to the region in the Philippines where Rosario is from. Also, I have to remind readers that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
JM: I haven't had either...sounds delicious. So what was the inflection point that put the project in motion?
PD: I was applying to business schools and a prompt for one of the admissions essays was, "Why do you want to go to business school?" In trying to write the essay it dawned on me that I didn't need to go to business school to start MarketShare, and so I decided to just go for it.