For the love of food and community | Community

CLAREMONT — A Facebook page that sprung up as a way to connect with other residents through a love of food and cooking is blossoming new creative and social outlets in Claremont, from fundraisers for a cooking on an upcoming community TV show to showcase the cooking skills of local residents.

“I’ve always wanted to do a cooking competition show, so I’m really excited for it,” said Dana McGrath, 31, a media and events coordinator who pitched a local cooking show last year in Claremont. Community Television.

The show, dubbed “Community of Fare”, is not a cooking competition but a platform for local residents to share their love of cooking through a cooking demonstration of a favorite recipe.

Although the episodes are not officially confirmed, several Claremont residents have already expressed interest in sharing their personal culinary niches.

Tentative episodes include “A Taste of Italy” with Chiara Tosi-Nelson, co-owner of Claremont Spice and Dry Goods; “Vegan Adventures” with Sam Killay; “Breaking Bread” with Shawn Walch; and “Wild Game and Forage Foods” with Jason Benware.

The show aims to represent people in the community by “sharing recipes or things they like to cook,” McGrath said.

The TV show is just one of many creative inspirations from the “Claremont Cooks” Facebook page, which McGrath launched last March to allow residents to share their culinary creations and recipes.

“The page really exploded,” McGrath said. “I started the group right after I closed my house and had about 100 members the first weekend.”

McGrath, who moved to Claremont last February, started the cooking group as a way to meet people in his new community.

“I thought food being such a big part of my life is probably a similar feeling for other people,” McGrath said. “And it was really a big surprise to see people sharing what they cook, what they think and the local ingredients they use.”

The Facebook group, which currently has 500 members, arguably deserves credit for inspiring last year’s Chopped contest at Arrowhead Recreation Area, which served as a fundraiser for the Claremont Opera House and Claremont Soup Kitchen. The live grilling contest, held last May, drew between 120 and 130 people to watch former city manager Ed Morris and Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center manager Alex Herzog demonstrate their cooking skills and their impromptu creativity in two challenges built around mysterious ingredients.

The idea for the fundraiser grew out of a conversation about “Claremont Cooks” that included Felicia Brych Dalke, chair of the Claremont Opera House Board.

“Someone had just made a comment about wanting to have a Chopped competition and the Claremont Opera House did,” McGrath said. “It was really cool that they jumped on this idea.”

McGrath, who works at Southern New Hampshire University, moved from Manchester to Claremont to buy his own house. While Claremont’s affordable home prices first caught her attention, McGrath said “she fell in love with the community.”

McGrath admits he sometimes misses the lack of diverse cuisines, such as the Indian and Thai restaurants provided by Manchester. McGrath is also not the first resident to observe the city’s questionable overflow of pizzerias when asked about the overall variety.

But McGrath said she loves the local restaurants in Claremont and family members who visit her have also raved about their dining experiences in the city.

“The value of Claremont is not having a bunch of chain restaurants on Washington Street, but showing how unique we are,” McGrath said. “We have a beautiful landscape and a supportive community that wants to see it grow.”

McGrath expressed strong support for the city’s downtown revitalization project, including the reconstruction of Pleasant Street, which aims to expand overall pedestrian spaces and improve aesthetics and seating to facilitate socializing opportunities, outdoor catering and cultural and community events.

Filming for “Community of Fare” is slated to begin this month, and McGrath is aiming for the first episode to air in February.

Those interested in demoing a recipe on “Community of Fare” can find more information, including possible cooking themes, on the “Claremont Cooks” Facebook group.

There is no residency requirement to join the Facebook group or guest on an episode of “Community of Fare”.

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