Big Grove Tavern, Champaign, Charity, Eastern Illinois Foodbank, Family Service, Give Back, Illinois, Local Food, Local Support, Prosperity Gardens, Sustainable Farming, The Land Connection

Give Back Campaign- Three Month Recap

For the past three months, Big Grove has partnered up with a different, local non-profit each month as part of a campaign called Give Back. Our Give Back campaign aims to financially support and raise awareness for various local organizations within the Champaign Urbana area. Join us for lunch any weekday and a portion of the lunch sales will be donated to the featured organization! (Click here to see our full lunch menu.)

Here is a little information about each organization we have worked with thus far:

October 2014 Partner

October 2014 Partner

The Land Connection‘s mission is to train farmers in resilient, restorative farming techniques and work to protect and enhance farmland so that we, and generations to come, will have clean air and water, fertile soil, and healthy, delicious food. They work to inform the public about the sources of our food and why that matters.
Featured programs like Farm Dreams workshops and Farm Beginnings courses equip their students with the knowledge needed to start a farm business with a solid foundation for its success.
Check out the Farm Fresh Now series of vegetable profiles (with recipes), plus a local foods infograph showing what’s in season and when to spread the word about all the great produce grown by Illinois farmers!

Our donation will be going towards as scholarship for the Farm Beginnings Program

Our donation will be going towards as scholarship for the Farm Beginnings Program

November 2014 Partner

November 2014 Partner

Through neighborhood farming, Prosperity Gardens is dedicated to cultivating healthy communities by providing education, employment and collaborative opportunities.
Prosperity Gardens works with the R.E.A.D.Y. school and the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club to educate and promote healthy lifestyles. The gardens also employ students over the summer. These student employees help Prosperity Gardens to produce hundreds of pounds of produce annually to be sold from an on-site farm stand each Thursday from 3:00pm-5:30pm. This gives students an opportunity to learn small business skills like the importance of customer service and entrepreneurship.
Through urban gardening, Prosperity Gardens can grow a stronger, more prosperous and healthier community.
Check out their Cookbook for a collection of healthy and delicious recipes inspired by the fruits and vegetables grown in the garden!

The Founder of Prosperity Gardens, Nicole Bridges

The Founder of Prosperity Gardens, Nicole Bridges.

December 2014 Partner

December 2014 Partner

The Eastern Illinois Foodbank exists to alleviate hunger in eastern Illinois. Clients seeking help from the Foodbank’s agencies and programs include older adults, children, the working poor, single-parent families, and the newly unemployed. To a family in crisis, Foodbank programs provide a little hope and support during difficult times.
The Healthy Futures Initiative is the Eastern Illinois Foodbank’s coordinated approach to alleviating child hunger. The initiative strives to increase children’s access to healthy foods such as produce, dairy, grains, meat, nonperishable fruits and vegetables during times of food insecurity. This includes programs like The Backpack Program which sends backpacks full of food home with children who are at risk of weekend hunger. Also, school pantries which provide a more readily accessible source of food assistance to low-income students and their families.
Click here to read more about the impact the Eastern Illinois Foodbank has on our community.

January 2015 Partner

January 2015 Partner

We are so pleased to announce our January Give Back partner is Champaign County’s Family Service– Senior Resource Center. Their mission is to support people across the generations by providing quality human services. Their reach is far and wide and includes programs such as Meals on Wheels, which delivers hot meals to seniors and the Senior Resource Center which provides seniors and their families with information about all services available in their area. There are many forms of counseling also available including Children First, a program that educates divorcing parents on the impact of divorce on children and helps them develop resources and new ways to relate to each other and their children.
Family Service aims to enrich lives across the generations. To learn more about their programs and how to get involved click here.

Thanks for reading and we hope this has given you an idea of why we at BGT feel giving back to our community is so important.

Happy Holidays from the BGT staff!

Happy Holidays from the BGT staff!

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!