Big Grove Tavern, Champaign, Charity, Give Back, Illinois, Orphans Treasue Box

Tour of Orphans Treasure Box- June Give Back Campaign Partner

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Orphans Treasure Box

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to tour the storefront of our June Give Back partner, Orphans Treasure Box. (Located at 826 Pioneer St. Champaign IL.) Founder, Beth Wendling, graciously gave me a tour and told me their inspiring story. What first started as listing a few books on Amazon to clear out the house in 2011 has grown into an organization that supports children, orphans and families in our community and around the world. In 2014, their local outreaches were Feeding our Kids and Restoration Urban Ministries. Globally, they have given to Hogar de Esperanza in Peru, the Ladlati Carepoint in Swaziland and to an Orphanage of Hope in India. Generous support has also been given to adoption grants for older and special needs kids through Cole’s Gift Grant.

Front Door OTB

The storefront portion of Orphans Treasure Box houses thousands of books neatly organized by genres with a large section of fiction/non fiction, mystery, sci fi, cookbooks, spirituals, gardening books and so much more. There is even a whole room full of children’s books with comfy bean bag chairs and toys! These books are sold at a rate of 4 for $1 and have been donated by members of the surrounding communities. In fact as I was there a nice couple from Arcola brought by three huge boxes of books for donations. Beth let me know this is not their “money making” portion of the organization but serves as a wonderful bookshop for all ages with a huge variety of styles and interests available.

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Next we moved into the sorting room where volunteers of all ages work to sort through donated books. Beth’s husband developed a system called “red light, green light” which scans each book’s bar code and mathematically calculates whether that particular book should be sold in their online Amazon store or in the Orphans Treasure Box storefront.

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After being scanned, books for the Amazon store are sorted on these shelves so they are easily accessible for staff to find and package everyday. There are over 30,000 books in this room!! The online store is where Orphans Treasure Box truly thrives. Because of their online presence they are selling books to people all over the world including the White House, movie stars, monks and more!

amazon room

The success of Orphans Treasure Box will allow them to support these organizations in 2015. Beth believes there is still a great amount of growth that can happen with this first storefront. Her hope is to branch out into surrounding communities in the coming years! IMG_1437

We invite you to join us for lunch at Big Grove Tavern any weekday in June to support Orphans Treasure Box!

We also welcome any and all book donations! We have a box for collecting donations on our community table in the foyer of the restaurant.They accept donations of Books, Audio CDs and books on CD, DVDs & Blue-Ray Discs, Educational Games & Teaching Tools.  community tableFor more information about Orphans Treasure Box follow this link http://www.orphanstreasurebox.org/!

Till next time! -Beckie & the Big Grove Team

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Big Grove Tavern, Champaign, Chef Jessica Gorin, Illinois, Mind of Our Chef

“Mind of Our Chef” Part Deux

Today on “Mind of Our Chef”  we dive into how Jessica landed in this Bubbly City and how the concept of Big Grove Tavern came about.

jbg kitchen

How did you end up in the CU?

My husband Jonathan and I moved to CU at the end of 2011 when he accepted an assistant professor position in the Department of Geography at UIUC.  We met in graduate school at UC Davis and he followed me as I worked around Napa and San Francisco.  When he got this opportunity, it was time for me to follow him.

How did BGT come about?

The university put me in touch with local restaurateurs.  I met with a number of people who were interested in investing in or opening a restaurant and just struck a rapport with the eventual owners of BGT.  After keeping in touch over the year before we moved to town, the investors and I settled on the idea of doing a farm to table restaurant that would utilize my West Coast sensibility in an accessible Midwestern context and focus on highlighting products from local farms.

Was Farm to Table always the way you saw yourself leaning?

Once I started cooking, seasonality was always very important to me.  Davis was similar to Champaign-Urbana- a college town in an agricultural area with a very strong farmer’s market.  I was always very aware of what produce was available and wanted to use what was at its peak.  As I continued to cook, I learned that restaurants could work directly with farmers and saw some of the benefits which that relationship produced- higher quality fresh ingredients, unique ingredients grown or raised specifically for the restaurant and a mutual sense of pride from the farmer and the chef for their partnership.  I think farm to table was always a pretty clear path for me.

What do you like most about being in Champaign?

We’ve met a lot of really great people since moving here and developed some good friendships.

What is your favorite thing to do around town in your free time?

We’re pretty chill in my house.  On my days off, we hang out with friends, watch movies and play card games.  When the weather’s nice, it’s fun to walk around the gardens at the Arboretum or head out to Meadowbrook.  And of course, it’s always good to have someone else cook for me- we spend a lot of time at Sakanaya!

jbg duck farmStay tuned after the holidays for the 3rd installment of “Mind of our Chef” with Chef Jessica to learn about her dreams for the future and predictions for the dining scene in the CU over the next few years.

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Big Grove Tavern, Chef Jessica Gorin, Mind of Our Chef

Mind of our Chef: Part 1

This is the first installment of “Mind of our Chef” featuring the one and only Chef Jessica Gorin! Below you will learn a little bit about her past and her life before coming to the Midwest.

Chef Jessica hard at work at the Urbana Farmer's Market. She spends every Summer Saturday morning picking up fresh produce for the week's menu!

Chef Jessica hard at work at the Urbana Farmer’s Market. She spends every Summer Saturday morning picking up fresh produce for the week’s menu!

Where did you grow up?

I was born in California and grew up in the small agricultural college town of Davis.  At the age of six, we moved to Houston, Texas, where I lived until I graduated high school and moved back to California.

 What was it like or what were some highlights from your childhood?

In Davis, there was a tomato field right behind our house.  Every summer, the air was filled with the smell of rotting tomatoes left in the field after the picker went through- I still can’t eat ketchup today without coating it in black pepper to cover the smell.

What did you eat as a child?

Until I was about 11 or 12, I had a lot of food allergies.  I couldn’t eat any dairy or peaches or strawberries.  We ended up eating a lot of Chinese and Japanese food because it was generally dairy-free.  I’d try to cheat and make allergen-free versions of foods I couldn’t eat like ice cream and yogurt by swirling together jam and Cool Whip.  It was pretty gross but I guess you could say that’s when I first started “cooking”.  Fortunately, I grew out of all my food allergies.

Growing up in Houston, we did go out for dinner frequently.  Houston had a very diverse restaurant scene and my parents were big believers in children ordering off the regular menu and behaving at the table so my brother and I went with them everywhere they wanted to eat.  We went to all sorts of restaurants- BBQ, Tex-Mex, Creole, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, French, Latin American.  I think it gave me an appreciation for lots of cuisines and for the artistry that can go into the presentation of food.

What were your dreams/ aspirations as a young adult?

I always enjoyed science and spent my summers working at the local science museum or as an intern in a genetics or psychology lab.  I really wanted to be a marine biologist.  Although I enjoyed cooking and would throw dinner parties for my friends, it didn’t even occur to me that working in restaurants could be a career.

How did you decided on school? What did you study?

I went to college at University of California, San Diego, which was right across the street from Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  I majored in Ecology, Behavior & Evolution.  After graduating, I moved back to Davis working on a PhD in Population Biology at UC Davis.  I was interested in speciation and extinction and how they were affected by human impacts on landscapes- basically conservation biology with a lot of genetics and mathematical modelling thrown in.

Looking back now, did you have any idea you would end up where you are today?

Never.  Looking back, I see all the pieces of being interested in food and cooking and local food systems but when I was young there was no Food Network and there wasn’t anything out there promoting the idea of chef as a career.  When I left grad school to pursue cooking it was because I sat back and thought about what I really wanted to do every day and what I could do that would impact the lives of people around me, and for me, that answer was cooking.

FullSizeRender_2Next time learn about how Jessica made the jump from California to good old Central Illinois!

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Big Grove Tavern, Fairbury, Farmstead Visits, Illinois, Kilgus Farmstead, Local Food, Organic, Sustainable Farming

BGT Staff Visit to Kilgus Farmstead

The Big Grove Tavern staff had the opportunity to visit the Kilgus Farmstead (Fairbury, Illinois) this week. We source our milk, cream and ground beef from them. This family run farm houses 150 Jersey cows who are milked two times a day for their delicious milk and cream. Jenna, our wonderful tour guide, informed us that as a breed, Jersey cows give less milk than their black and white counterparts, but their milk is highly prized by cheese makers, chefs, and others because of its increased protein and calcium levels.

A week old baby Jersey cow

A week old baby Jersey cow

Jersey Cows and Snickers the Dog

Jersey Cows and Snickers the Dog

Upon our arrival we watched the milk bottling session for the day. We witnessed the gallons of milk being bottled that were to be delivered to our restaurant the following morning. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!

In the milking room where cows are milked 2 times every day. 365 days a year!

In the milking room where cows are milked 2 times every day. 365 days a year!

We learned that Kilgus cows are on pasture starting in April and enjoy the pasture grass until November. During  the winter months the cows are fed a ration of non-GMO corn silage that is grown on the Kilgus farm.

Chef Jessica and her friends

Chef Jessica and her friends

Kilgus also is the home to pigs, goats and a few farm dogs!

Chef Matt and the pigs

Chef Matt and the pigs

If you eat at Chicago’s Girl and the Goat, The Little Goat or Frontera Grill, the goat comes from Kilgus Farmstead!

The Big Grove Staff after an awesome tour of the farm & loaded up with local goodies.

The Big Grove Staff after an awesome tour of the farm & loaded up with local goodies.

After our tour we enjoyed a lovely lunch at Fairbury’s own Lost in Time restaurant where they source their ingredients locally and make their dishes from scratch!

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