Dive Deeper into the Work of Food with Traverse City’s ‘Taste of Work’

Taste of Work, a docu-series led by Robert George and Becky Tranchell, began in an office at a culinary school that they would describe as a ‘closet.’ Bumping into each other if they backed up in their desk chairs, they began to chat (closely) about the work their culinary students aspired to move onto beyond graduation. It seemed that each class inevitably saw themselves as the next ‘Top Chef’. George and Tranchell were disconcerted by the romanticizing of a chef’s work, since it failed to grasp the true breadth of work in food. 

Thus began their goal of documenting the rich food community in Traverse City – but removing the ‘food’ from it, and focusing on the ‘work.’ In 10-12 minute episodes, viewers can virtually shadow leaders in area kitchens and listen into real-world conversations with Traverse City’s chefs, servers, and even clergy. Each film starts a conversation about the serious issues that take place in food service environments, all while describing the largely varied work that they do, and their journey to where they are today. 

In the first installment of this docuseries, George and Tranchell, along with filmmakers Grant Piering and Mia Hagerty, head to the Cook’s House and talk with Chefs and Proprietors Jen Blakeslee and Eric Patterson about work-life balance and gender concerns in the kitchen. Next, we are introduced to Reverend Jane Lippert and her service at the Central United Methodist Church preparing meals to those affected by food insecurity. The most recent episode of the series explores food shortage, labor issues and more with Kevin Whiting, the co-owner of busy diner Round’s Restaurant. Episodes often tap into multiple topics due to the nature of work in the food industry, but also due to the creators purposefully keeping an open-ended conversation. In future films, they plan to explore topics like immigration and agriculture.

Taste of Work aims to present big issues in the food industry on a local level– but not solve them. Instead, it inspires the watcher to explore the topic on their own, encouraging civil discourse and empathy while presenting a window into the real world of those that serve food in our community.

For George and Tranchell, this docu-series project is just beginning. Community Members are invited to take part in its future with a Community Forum on November 9th at the Milliken Auditorium at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, MI. The evening will begin with a screening of each short film, and invite audience members to ask questions prompted by the films with the main subjects themselves.  

Watch the first episode: 

Claire Butler is the Content Strategy Specialist for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected].

Further Reading: