One of Alabama’s largest hospitality groups is implementing a new initiative that expands access to local food for citizens across the region, and extends to growers, purveyors, consumers, chefs, restaurateurs, amateur cooks, food banks, and non-profits.
“Wind Creek's Southern Table: Setting a Place for Good Food," is a multi-faceted initiative spearheaded by Jay Dorris, president of Wind Creek Hospitality (WCH), which operates casinos, hotels, racetracks, poker rooms, and entertainment facilities in Alabama and Florida. Wind Creek Hospitality is an authority of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
The initiative includes a commitment to using locally grown and produced food whenever possible in its restaurants, including Fire Steakhouse and Grill, which has two Alabama locations in the Wind Creek Casino & Hotels in Atmore and Wetumpka.
Wind Creek Atmore, Wind Creek Wetumpka, and Creek Casino Montgomery already play a major role in supporting local food production.
In the past six months, WCH has purchased 243,190 pounds of local chicken; 48,670 pounds of local catfish; 912 Alabama-made cakes; and 15,280 pounds of locally made sausage. WCH's chefs have also committed to regularly featuring more seasonal produce and specialty products, such as Belle Chevre cheese made in Elkmont, Alabama.
“The good food that is grown all across our region should be available to everyone, and we are making a targeted effort to have what's grown here and what's made locally offered on our Wind Creek menus,” says Michael Perhaes, WCH’s vice president of marketing. “We also want to make sure that our culinary community is valued and encouraged to grow."
The initiative also includes philanthropic support to organizations such as EAT South, which encourages healthy lifestyles through education and sustainable food production, and to area food pantries and other food distribution efforts aimed at helping needy families across the region.'
The effort includes a rolling kitchen, dubbed “Good to Go.” The 24-foot-long food truck has an industrial kitchen capable of producing hundreds of meals at a time, and it will serve as a rolling repository of information about good food in the region—where to get it and how to make it.
Additionally, as part of the program, WCH continues to work with smaller producers and local growers on challenges they face with distribution and quantity of available items.
Finally, to promote culinary excellence, "Wind Creek's Southern Table" is sponsoring food festivals, such as Gulf Shore's Annual National Shrimp Festival, and amateur cooking events like barbecue cook-offs.