A pioneer in farm-to-table dining in Kalamazoo, Food Dance owner readies for final dance

KALAMAZOO, MI — Since Julie Stanley introduced March 22 she would be closing Foods Dance immediately after a near-28-calendar year-run, just about every working day has been as active as a Saturday, she stated.

Even though Saturday, April 9 will be her restaurant’s very last.

“I will pass up the entity of Food stuff Dance. I will miss out on the persons and the guests. I have had awesome company,” claimed Stanley, 69. “I just want the up coming section of my life. I want to travel, do heaps of factors. I’m on the lookout forward to getting ready to do my artwork whenever I want I have a whole studio in my basement.”

It was journey that ignited Stanley’s enthusiasm for foods at a young age and laid the foundation for her eventual farm-to-desk technique as a restauranteur.

Trips to Europe with friends, family and later fellow restauranteurs opened her eyes to a different value system in which food items was obtained day by day in the markets and well prepared nightly in restaurants. Sourcing was of the utmost value, just like it has been for Stanley in each individual endeavor in her culinary profession.

“That’s what was occurring in San Francisco, and Los Angeles and on up to Portland in the 90s, but it wasn’t happening in the Midwest at the time,” she stated. “The Midwest constantly appears to be about 10 years powering the coasts when anything at all catches on.”

Connected: Food stuff Dance was ‘ahead of its time’ bringing farm-to-table fare to Kalamazoo, longtime patrons say

https://www.youtube.com/look at?v=cwncySp6IWc

An entrepreneur through and as a result of — who claims she could do another challenge but will not — Stanley’s occupation as a cafe owner started with Slice of Heaven in downtown Kalamazoo.

The gourmet carryout and catering organization afterwards moved to Ann Arbor and a few several years later, Stanley returned and the longest chapter of her everyday living, the Food items Dance chapter, commenced in Kalamazoo’s Haymarket at 161 E. Michigan in November 1994.

“When we went into the Haymarket there was pretty much nothing at all open on Sundays, and everybody claimed: ‘You are likely to open on Sundays do breakfast and lunch in the back of a developing? You are likely to go broke.’ Properly, they ended up improper,” Stanley laughed. “And I realized they were being improper, since I understood what the city desired.”

What Stanley mentioned the city needed the most was a put for neighborhood to obtain about domestically sourced meals.

Community at Food items Dance was in no way outlined by any specific form of visitor both. And that, like every thing else at the restaurant was by structure.

“The who’s who ended up here but also the who’s not,” Stanley explained. “I needed people today to occur in in minks and in ripped up jeans. I didn’t want to inform men and women what they could and couldn’t. They just had to be nice, which is all.”

A company believer in “servant leadership,” Stanley led by instance. She could frequently be witnessed bussing a table, or in the kitchen area or assembly with food stuff companies at her bar. And if she did arrive into try to eat at her very own cafe, she usually paid, she reported.

In the earlier pair months due to the fact creating the announcement, she claimed it’s been equally worthwhile and humbling hearing from so a lot of longtime patrons and previous personnel about what the restaurant has meant to them.

“I just come to feel honored,” she said. “I have never ever preferred that limelight. I can chat all working day about food items and values, but I don’t like that type of consideration. We ended up just attempting to offer real food items. That was it. And not because it was the fashionable matter to do. But mainly because it’s the way we must all stay.”

Furnishing that “real food” has meant not only casting a highlight on community farmers. Farmers like Norm Carlson at Carlson Farms in Lawton, or Dave Younger at Young Earth Farm in Decatur, as properly as farms this kind of as Butternut Sustainable in Sturgis Small Giant Farm in Kalamazoo and Crisp Country Acres in Holland but giving individuals farmers with an option to develop their individual legacies and move them on, Carlson said.

“Anybody can occur into city and create a warehouse and say, ‘hey I’m your neighborhood supplier. I’d really like to offer you, here’s your buy kinds.’ But to develop a connection with a farmer, which is what Julie’s been the pioneer in carrying out and she has taken it to a degree that men and women just dream of,” Carlson said. “And not only just with the meat and eggs with us, but the greens and just about every factor of what she has finished.

“She’s taught the worth of figuring out your farmer and understanding your foodstuff source and other individuals are choosing up the torch and it is all many thanks to Julie. She’s blazed the trail for so lots of a long time and laid the groundwork so that other chefs can action up and be portion of some farmer’s lifestyle and some factor of their small business can be carried on.”

Stanley had a number of cooks all over the a long time, from the restaurant’s beginnings in the 4,000 sq.-foot, 100-seat Haymarket cafe to the a great deal larger sized, 11,000 sq.-foot, 220-particular person area at 401 E. Michigan that has served the neighborhood in latest many years.

From Brad McKenzie to Rob Hammond to Cory Nelson, Pat Watkins and Matt Overdevest, they each and every brought passion and experienced affect on the restaurant’s menu, Stanley mentioned. Like the serving team, several of whom have been with her for the earlier 10-15 years, they had been all about quality of service and visitor practical experience.

That team, as is the case at so several restaurants and corporations, was a spouse and children, she claimed.

And on the day, she advised that spouse and children the restaurant was closing, numerous of them cried. All clapped.

It was no top secret she experienced needed to retire for a extensive time. Stanley experienced appeared for the suitable man or woman to get it around, but that person never ever emerged. She place the enterprise up for sale in January and no deal was arrived at. So, she made the decision it was time.

In the months since earning that announcement, Stanley claimed she’s been flooded with mixed thoughts and thoughts, but at no place has she second guessed that the choice was the proper 1.

“The previous 4 decades have been pretty tumultuous,” she stated, alluding to a 2018 fireplace that shut the cafe for two months and the pandemic which saved her doors shut months on conclude.

As she prepares to provide her ultimate dishes and witness the cheers the very last beverages on Saturday, Stanley pauses to assume about the group experience she was able to make at Food Dance, by way of her relationships with farmers and company, but most importantly as a result of supplying a house for attendees to appear with each other over food stuff.

“That’s what I preferred,” she stated. “I set out to create group and taking in with each other is the respond to. In each other lifestyle in the earth, persons obtain all around the desk and which is how it is performed. I grew up with Television trays. My relatives never ever talked to just about every other. They have been horrible.

“But I grew up in the 50s and that’s why it was like that.”

Group could be the legacy she feels she is leaving driving, but for people like Carlson it’s what Julie and her husband Ed Stanley have intended to neighborhood farmers during Southwest Michigan.

With Stanley, all food had a tale, he stated, and that is the crucial for men and women — to know exactly where their meals will come from and what that tale is.

“When she’s place a story on her menu, it is simply because she’s come out and picked the eggs, she’s occur out and seen our animals,” he reported. “She can suggest the lower of beef due to the fact she noticed that beef when it was alive, and she picked people greens out fresh new, herself, at the Farmer’s Current market.

“I’m exceptionally blessed and fortunate and it is for the reason that of Julie that our spouse and children farm has the opportunity to survive the legacy we have crafted, and it’s for the reason that of Julie that we run the volume that we do by Bronson and 600 and about at Lake Burger. These men all envisioned what domestically sourced is supposed to be because of her.”

Also on MLive:

Ultimate Gravity brewing beer for Ukraine fundraiser employing the country’s beloved beets

The place to discover fairy shrimp in Michigan’s woods this spring

Bell’s Brewery appears toward future under neighborhood leadership and New Belgium partnership

Share This Post