In an effort to provide more community-centric programming, the Tacoma Art Museum has launched an exciting new program. Every Thursday through November 28, the TAM Cafe will partner with local black-owned restaurants – and foodies can experience the culinary delights from noon to 7 p.m. (no museum entry is required to visit the TAM Coffee).
Tony Lang, Executive Chef, Director of Coffee and Food Services at TAM, started out as a dishwasher at former Pete’s Barbecue while in college, when he was “first stung by this virus. I fell in love with the industry, “he said. “A chef told me, ‘You have a knack for it and should consider making a career out of it.’ I took a break from school, and I’m still on a break. “
Since those early days, he has worked in gastronomy, fast casual and places ranging from small independent restaurants to large corporate restaurants. He started at TAM about two years ago and admits his path to this museum was … to get married.
“I needed something where I could cut down on the hours I worked so that I could balance what I loved and still be a husband and a father,” he said. “TAM gave me this opportunity.”
Lang says this new program aims to introduce black-owned food and beverage businesses to the Tacoma community – incredible places visitors may not have known before.
“TAM has been kind enough to provide this platform,” Lang said. “I am very excited to see someone introduced to a new restaurant / owner that they would not have been exposed to otherwise.”
He likes it when someone walks into the cafe without knowing who is being presented.
“Then, as soon as their fork touches their lips, they smile or do a happy little dance in their seat to let you know they appreciate the food. It’s such a pleasure to hear the business owner tell them a story, give them a business map and tell them where they can be found, ”he said. “What more can I ask for?” “
The concept simply evolved.
“When I heard about the Kinsey collection [TAM’s newest exhibit] and its art, its history – our history, our history – I naturally thought about how to associate food with it. There are a lot of black owned food and beverage companies here; how can i link this? And that seed was planted, and I just ran with it. “
The culinary lineup covers everything from sweet and savory dishes to drinks, as Lang says it’s really about bringing everyone in.
“We have Quincy Henry from Campfire Coffee, we have Warnessa Victorian from Lizzy Lou’s Too,” he comments. “We have Uncle Thurmon from Uncle Thurms Soul Food and Karina Blasco from Only Oatmeal Cookie Creations. We have had Aliyah Davis from Black Magic Sweets, Martin Dowd from Dowd’s BBQ and Bobby Shorts from HamHock Jones Soul Shack. There’s also Brenda Miller from Velvet’s Big Easy, and there’s more to come. “
The inspiration behind choosing each company was not to place any restrictions on them; Lang’s only criterion was that each participant be a legitimate business owner.
“I wanted them to come here to do what they do best for a different crowd and audience,” he said. “That’s it. Everyone chose their own menu and prices. I just wanted to give them the platform to show what they can do.”
Outside of work, Lang’s world revolves around his family – and food and drink.
“Because if you find great food, you find great drink, you’re going to find an amazing place to go,” he said. “Here in Tacoma, there is water, there is the beach, there is the mountain – there is a bit of everything to do here.” He also likes to come to the museum on a day off to see an exhibit, so he doesn’t have to rush.
When asked why now for this food series, Lang thinks it’s the perfect time because people said “yes”.
“There is never a bad time,” he adds. “It’s really about getting others to join. The Kinseys joined, TAM joined, and now was the perfect time.”