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Goodbye Rebel Kitchen

November 7, 2020

I’m so sad to see Knoxville’s Rebel Kitchen and Old City Wine Bar close. For numerous reasons. One, Chef Preston has been a great customer. As a small farmer, you can’t have too many of those and it really hurts to lose one. And, they have been a shining addition to the growing revitalization of Old City. But mostly I’m sad/frustrated/angry that a beautiful restaurant, with an awesome chef, serving delicious LOCALLY-SOURCED food can’t make a go of it. Rebel Kitchen’s menu changed according to what was available from local farmers. Farmers in Knox and adjoining counties. Talk about “Shop Local”! Almost every dollar generated by them stayed in our region and helped support our local economy. They are closing, yet every Chili’s, Cheddar’s and Olive Garden that you drive by is packed to the ceiling. Their ingredients are shipped in on a truck from a long way away, and the money that is spent there is shipped back out to some place a long way away.

The longer I do this, the more bizarre I find the concept of chain restaurants. Think about it. REALLY think about it. We are choosing to eat food raised who-knows-how and shipped in on a truck from who-knows-where. Greene County (my county) is currently the second largest beef producing county in the state of Tennessee. Why on earth are we not supplying more local beef to more local restaurants? I don’t mean just “fancy” establishments. What would be better than stopping in at your favorite local place for lunch and grabbing a burger made from beef raised within 10-20 miles of your plate? How ridiculous in concept that area restaurants and suppliers are buying beef raised in a feed lot in Nebraska and shipped back to Tennessee, passing untold numbers of cattle farms along the way. I realize it’s about the bottom line. I realize that our broken agriculture system in this country has stacked the deck against “Local” and “Small”. Volume selling, that’s the key, right? Feeding cheap, government-subsidized corn to cattle in a feed lot is easier and less land-intensive than raising cattle on pasture. But pasture-raised beef is healthier. That’s just a fact.

I won’t get into a rant about the USDA, “Big Ag”, grass-fed, etc, etc. I will just wrap this up with a big THANK YOU to Thomas Boyd, Chef Preston Williams and the fabulous staff of Rebel Kitchen. We appreciate you and will miss you greatly!

Every year, there is a day set aside to support local businesses on Small Business Saturday. One day. I would challenge all of us – myself included – to think long and hard about that and make a concerted effort to support local small business every day that we can.

Barry

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