Chef Outta Water

Astoria-based chef Chris Holen, center, visited Mississippi in 2018 to serve alongside chef Stewart Robinson, left, and David Crews of Delta Supper Club.

The music, flavors and culture of the Mississippi Delta are coming to the Columbia-Pacific.

On Saturday in the Astoria Armory, chefs and musicians from the South will make for a unique dining experience. The event, called River2River, is a collaboration between Mississippi’s Delta Supper Club and Astoria’s Chef Outta Water.

In 2018, Baked Alaska chef Chris Holen was hosted by the supper club in Mississippi. Now, he’s “returning the favor” by hosting chefs David Crews and Stewart Robinson.

Attendees of the event will experience a Southern dinner, paired with live music by Mississippi-based singer-songwriter Steve Azar.

“The meal will be a Southern, family-style dinner,” Holen said. “(The menu is) exactly what you’d think.”

Pork belly, grilled catfish, cornbread, braised collard greens, grits, spicy chicken and biscuits, and more will be served.

A taste of the south

The Delta Supper Club is a membership-based organization that puts on about six limited-seating dining events each year in historic locations throughout the Mississippi Delta region. Each event features a menu inspired by locally-sourced ingredients but designed by acclaimed chefs who visit from all across the United States.

Holen got connected with the Delta Supper Club in 2018 after putting on an event with Azar and his daughter, an aspiring young chef, to benefit the Astoria Regatta Riedel Scholarship Endowment Fund. During the event, Holen mentioned wanting to travel to Mississippi with Chef Outta Water, an organization he established four years ago.

Chef Outta Water is a partnership between Holen and Australian economic development practitioner Simon Millcock.

Azar, who is a member of the Delta Supper Club and the appointed Music and Culture Ambassador of Mississippi, got Holen connected with Crews and Robinson, two of the organization’s founders. In October 2018, Holen served as the visiting chef for a dining event put on by the Delta Supper Club in the middle of a park in Greenwood, Mississippi.

“It was awesome,” Holen said.

Uniting people through food

The event will combine various aspects of the similar yet distinct missions, styles, and methods of the Delta Supper Club and Chef Outta Water. For example, the event is being held at the Astoria Armory in the supper club’s spirit of hosting dining events in historic locations.

Meanwhile, Chef Outta Water is a social enterprise that is intended to “bring the world a little bit closer through food,” Holen said.

“We want to give chefs, restaurants, and producers the opportunity to work with and learn from each other on a global scale,” Holen said.

Over the years, Holen organized about six unique dining experiences in Astoria with chefs from countries including Iceland, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Through the organization, He and Millcock have traveled to other countries with other chefs, brewers and purveyors.

The idea is to take chefs out of their routine and “put them in a potentially uncomfortable position, hence, the Chef Outta Water, to realize their potential and learn something new, thus being able to take this new knowledge back and share it with their fellow cooks, their staff, and their customers,” Holen said.

The program has led to extraordinary interactions. During one trip, Holen and Millcock took an Australian chef and a Portuguese chef to China.

While there, they spent an afternoon in a culinary training program for students who were hearing-impaired.The students communicated via a sign language interpreter and English interpreter to teach the art of making dumplings and other culinary techniques.

“That’s the kind of thing that really opens your mind up to the possibilities,” Holen said.

When Chef Outta Water brings visiting chefs to Astoria, they organize a community engagement event along with other activities. On Friday, in conjunction with the event, Chef Outta Water will host a pop-up at Nekst Event, 175 14th St.

Crews and Robinson will work with students from Tongue Point Job Corps to create and serve a limited menu with four or five Southern dishes. The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the public is invited to a pay-what-you-can lunch, with proceeds designated for the armory.

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