Local food company and chefs come together to support local efforts to end hunger

It started like all great ideas start: with too much coffee. One morning not too long ago, Tyler Hallock, owner of TopFloorStudio, June Thomas, a partner in Nine Mile Restaurant, and J. Clarkson, a staff member at MANNA FoodBank, were exchanging caffeine-laced messages on Twitter about their love for, and skills at creating, a Reuben sandwich made with tempeh. Pretty quickly, it became clear that the question of who’s tempeh Reuben was the best would have to be settled in a challenge of epic proportions, and the MOST EPIC TEMPEH REUBEN CHALLENGE was born. The event will take place on September 30 from 2 to 5pm at the Asheville Music Hall and will bring together local chefs to create their versions of the sandwich with the only constant ingredient being Smiling Hara Tempeh.

But there is more to the CHALLENGE than establishing bragging rights. Hallock, Thomas, and Clarkson share a passion for local food and supporting local businesses. “It was immediately clear that we wanted to ask Smiling Hara Tempeh to be involved,” said Clarkson. “They have a great product that has taken some hard knocks recently, and we saw this goofy idea as a way to show our support for local folks who are working hard to bounce back.” According to Clarkson, companies like Smiling Hara that produce added-value food products are essential to creating a vibrant local food scene. “And a thriving local food scene provides more opportunities to work against local food insecurity,” he said.

This event will also work against food insecurity by raising food and funds for MANNA FoodBank. “We wanted to make sure that all the profits from this event supported a good cause, and MANNA was the perfect fit,” said Tyler Hallock. For a $15.00 ticket, attendees can sample and vote on tempeh reubens from Asheville’s finest chefs while they enjoy music by the Sugarfoot Serenaders. A panel of celebrity judges will name the ultimate winner of the contest. A cash bar will be available, and everyone is encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for MANNA to the event. “Its really unique for an event to focus both on the distribution of food to those in need and the importance of purchasing locally grown and produced food” said June Thomas, “not to mention that we will finally know who in Asheville makes THE MOST EPIC TEMPEH REUBEN!”

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