10 to Watch

David Dadekian

Food advocate & writer


• 43yearsold
• Started the local food blog EatDrinkRI.com
• Was the producer of the first X-Files website
• Developed the first hour-long network TV program, FOX News Sunday,with live simultaneous online interaction; broadcasted the FOX News Channel on-line as the world’s first 24/7 live video stream

• Is a member and outreach chairperson of the RI Food Policy Council, member of Chefs Collaborative

What He's Done for Local Food

Dadekian is a prominent food blogger and photographer, and the producer of the annual Eat Drink RI Festival. He thrust the subject into the election conversation by hosting “Food Will Help Rhode Island Grow,” a pair of town hall-style forums with the candidates for both governor and mayor of Providence that forced the candidates to go on record with their ideas for nurturing the local food scene. Dadekian sees this as a key economic driver for the state. “Growth in food is one of the few bright spots in the local economy,” he says. “If you combine all the food-related jobs in Rhode Island, it adds up to 60,000 jobs in the food-related sector, which makes it second only to health care. Clearly there is an economic impact we should take advantage of.”

How He's Going to Take it Up a Notch
Last year Dadekian won a Rhode Island Foundation Innovation Fellowship to launch the Eat Drink RI Central Market, a culinary hub for the state modeled after places like the Milwaukee Public Market and Cleveland’s West Side Market. This would essentially create a permanent, year-round, indoor farmer’s market, augmented by small restaurant stalls. It would also be a distribution hub for local food traveling from farms and oceans to restaurant kitchens, an incubator space with commercial production and processing facilities for food-related businesses and an educational center. Dadekian sees this as the missing piece in an otherwise robust local food industry. “In cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland these markets have been fantastic hubs for a number of things,” he explains. “One is obviously to showcase local product – and they can be tourist attractions to get people around the country to see what we have. It will be an economic driver for jobs with all those different stands and storefronts employing people.”

What's on the Menu for 2015
The Eat Drink RI Festival will have its fourth installment from April 30-May 3, featuring a food truck event to benefit the RI Community Food Bank and a Grand Tasting full of local restaurants, products and beverages. He’ll put together a similar culinary showcase at the State House on January 10 as part of Governor-elect Raimondo’s inauguration celebration. Proceeds from that will also benefit the Food Bank.

Of course, the big item on his to-do list is the Central Market. He’s been in talks with the state and others about potential properties. (Providence is the ideal home, but it’s by no means assured.) He hopes to announce a location soon and at least break ground before the end of the year – maybe even make enough progress for a soft open. The project has been a valuable lesson in patience for him. “I was ready to open a market tomorrow, and I know the culinary community was ready to do it with me, but business development, coupled with real estate development, is a slow-moving machine,” he explains, adding, “But we do have progress!”

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