Openfields Local Foods Dinner Aug. 13 at Social in Rockford

Staff Report

Chefs have a long list of responsibilities that include food preparation, menu planning and pricing, establishing contact with vendors, recordkeeping and kitchen staff supervision. Setting a restaurant theme and marketing duties may also be required, but rarely does a chef’s “to-do” list include teaching restaurant wait staff and the general public about local food. Yet, that’s exactly what owner/chef Paul Sletten does through his downtown establishment, Social Urban Bar and Restaurant.

Social Urban Bar and Restaurant, 509 E. State St., in downtown Rockford, is a farm-to-table restaurant that creatively transforms local meats, fruits and vegetables grown on area farms into a delicious, unique culinary experience for its patrons.

The chefs at Social visit each table to educate their customers about where their food was sourced, how it was grown and the inspiration behind its preparation.

Sletten also takes his restaurant staff on periodic excursions to visit local farms, see the ingredients in the field, and help them develop a new food ethic.

It’s often a transformative experience when a host or server witnesses the journey that a beet takes from garden row to kitchen to diner’s plate, all within a few hours’ time,” Sletten said. “It immediately changes their attitude about the food we serve and helps them educate patrons about why the food at Social is so fresh and delicious.”

Social Urban Bar and Restaurant will continue to educate diners about local foods by hosting a U of I Extension Openfields Local Foods Dinner Monday, Aug. 13. Dinner will include a five-course meal showcasing mid-summer produce and specialty items. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m. with a 6:30 p.m. dinner seating. The menu will be available at the event based on the availability of local ingredients. Cost is $55 per person, and a vegetarian option is available.

University of Illinois Extension’s Openfields Local Foods Dinner Series is a summer series that brings together innovative restaurants, talented chefs, local farmers and savvy diners to celebrate healthy, delicious, locally-produced foods.

For more about this or another dinner in the series, call U of I Extension at (815) 986-4357 or (815) 235-4125, or visit

Reservations are required and are made through U of I Extension.

From the Aug. 8-14, 2012, issue

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