Restaurateurs, ranchers and foodies gather for inaugural Taste of Cullman event 

Up and coming chef Elijah Russell tops a sample of 412 Public House's wonton nachos with a delectable house-made sauce on Monday evening, Nov. 13, 2023, at the inaugural Taste of Cullman homegrown food event. (Cayla Grace Murphy)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Dedicated restauranteurs and chefs, local ranchers and growers and those who just love a good bite to eat gathered at Wallace State Community College on Monday evening, Nov. 13, to attend Wallace State Culinary Pride’s inaugural “Taste of Cullman” homegrown food show. Attendees paid $10 at the door to sample popular dishes from some of Cullman’s hottest eateries and cafes, learn more about sourcing meat and produce locally and network with others interested in boosting the local restaurant economy. 

The event was laidback, with community-style dining tables in the middle, and strangers turning into friends as guests compared herbal and spice notes in the dishes. Among the dozen or so tables handing out samples were local mainstays like 412 Public House dishing up crispy wonton nachos, Hele Bowls handing out fresh and colorful grain bowls and Augusta’s serving its signature Hawaiian ribeye and shrimp and grits, along with newcomers The National and Blue Ridge Cattle Co. Guests sampled dishes, asked thoughtful questions and learned more about the local food-based economy.  

The event was a partnership between Wallace State and the North Alabama Agriplex, but was largely spearheaded by Chef Aaron Nichols, head of Wallace State’s culinary arts department, who wanted a chance for local restauranteurs, ranchers and growers to meet and mingle – not  only for tapas bites, but also to network and continue to bolster Cullman’s ever-growing restaurant industry.  

“The main purpose of this was to bring the farmers of Cullman to the restaurants of Cullman,” said Nichols, explaining the gap that can sometimes be present between producers and growers and the restaurant industry. 

“We have a duty in our industry to produce locally sourced ingredients, and give our guests the best ingredients we possibly can – and that comes from locally sourced items,” he said. Nichols said it benefits not only the guests at restaurants and eateries to have fresh food on their plates, but also the rancher and grower, stimulating the economy on both sides.  

“Restaurants get to advertise that they’re locally sourced, and they’re supporting the farmer as well,” he nodded.  

Nichols addressed another reason for hosting the event. While Wallace State continues to attract students from outside the area, and for good reason, it means that many students are not locals and may not know what Cullman has to offer. 

“We had students who didn’t know about certain businesses in Cullman. That really broke my heart! So I wanted to showcase what all Cullman had to offer in one place and allow guests to come try everything at one time,” he smiled, saying shaking hands between industries is crucial to the success of culinary arts development, especially after graduation. 

“People don’t get out anymore!” he laughed. “This was an opportunity to get out and for my students to meet the restauranteurs.”  

The event also served as a fundraiser for The Link of Cullman County, with the $10 admission charge benefiting the nonprofit’s free Thanksgiving meal. Nichols said that by giving his students some “humble pie,” it’ll motivate them to keep giving back.  

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