A pioneer in farm-to-desk eating in Kalamazoo, Food stuff Dance operator readies for final dance


KALAMAZOO, MI — Given that Julie Stanley announced March 22 she would be closing Food Dance after a near-28-12 months-operate, each day has been as chaotic as a Saturday, she reported.

While Saturday, April 9 will be her restaurant’s very last.

“I will miss the entity of Food stuff Dance. I will pass up the people and the company. I have experienced wonderful attendees,” claimed Stanley, 69. “I just want the up coming element of my daily life. I want to journey, do tons of items. I’m hunting ahead to currently being ready to do my art whenever I want I have a full studio in my basement.”

It was travel that ignited Stanley’s enthusiasm for food at a young age and laid the basis for her eventual farm-to-table tactic as a restauranteur.

Trips to Europe with good friends, family and later fellow restauranteurs opened her eyes to a different benefit technique where by meals was ordered every day in the markets and prepared nightly in places to eat. Sourcing was of the utmost value, just like it has been for Stanley in each endeavor in her culinary occupation.

“That’s what was happening in San Francisco, and Los Angeles and on up to Portland in the 90s, but it wasn’t happening in the Midwest at the time,” she claimed. “The Midwest always appears to be about 10 yrs behind the coasts when anything at all catches on.”

Associated: Foods Dance was ‘ahead of its time’ bringing farm-to-desk fare to Kalamazoo, longtime patrons say

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An entrepreneur through and as a result of — who claims she could do a further undertaking but will not — Stanley’s vocation as a cafe operator began with Slice of Heaven in downtown Kalamazoo.

The gourmet carryout and catering enterprise afterwards moved to Ann Arbor and a couple decades afterwards, Stanley returned and the longest chapter of her daily life, the Meals Dance chapter, started in Kalamazoo’s Haymarket at 161 E. Michigan in November 1994.

“When we went into the Haymarket there was actually practically nothing open up on Sundays, and anyone reported: ‘You are likely to open on Sundays do breakfast and lunch in the back of a making? You are likely to go broke.’ Perfectly, they have been erroneous,” Stanley laughed. “And I knew they had been mistaken, simply because I knew what the town required.”

What Stanley claimed the town desired the most was a location for group to acquire over locally sourced food.

Group at Foodstuff Dance was under no circumstances outlined by any certain sort of guest either. And that, like every little thing else at the cafe was by design and style.

“The who’s who have been here but also the who’s not,” Stanley mentioned. “I wanted individuals to appear in in minks and in ripped up jeans. I did not want to inform folks what they could and couldn’t. They just had to be awesome, which is all.”

A firm believer in “servant management,” Stanley led by illustration. She could frequently be observed bussing a table, or in the kitchen or meeting with food stuff vendors at her bar. And if she did arrive into consume at her possess cafe, she usually paid, she explained.

In the earlier couple months considering the fact that making the announcement, she claimed it is been the two satisfying and humbling listening to from so lots of longtime patrons and previous staff members about what the restaurant has meant to them.

“I just truly feel honored,” she claimed. “I have never wanted that limelight. I can discuss all day about food items and values, but I never like that type of interest. We ended up just attempting to provide serious food items. That was it. And not since it was the stylish issue to do. But mainly because it is the way we should all stay.”

Offering that “real food” has meant not only casting a highlight on neighborhood farmers. Farmers like Norm Carlson at Carlson Farms in Lawton, or Dave Youthful at Young Earth Farm in Decatur, as very well as farms this sort of as Butternut Sustainable in Sturgis Tiny Large Farm in Kalamazoo and Crisp Place Acres in Holland but supplying those farmers with an possibility to make their own legacies and pass them on, Carlson mentioned.

“Anybody can appear into town and make a warehouse and say, ‘hey I’m your nearby supplier. I’d love to supply you, here’s your order types.’ But to create a connection with a farmer, that is what Julie’s been the pioneer in performing and she has taken it to a amount that persons just desire of,” Carlson explained. “And not only just with the meat and eggs with us, but the veggies and just about every facet of what she has finished.

“She’s taught the significance of being aware of your farmer and recognizing your foods source and many others are choosing up the torch and it is all many thanks to Julie. She’s blazed the trail for so a lot of a long time and laid the groundwork so that other cooks can move up and be component of some farmer’s lifestyle and some part of their organization can be carried on.”

Stanley had a number of cooks in the course of the several years, from the restaurant’s beginnings in the 4,000 sq.-foot, 100-seat Haymarket restaurant to the a great deal bigger, 11,000 square-foot, 220-person space at 401 E. Michigan that has served the community in modern years.

From Brad McKenzie to Rob Hammond to Cory Nelson, Pat Watkins and Matt Overdevest, they each introduced passion and experienced impact on the restaurant’s menu, Stanley mentioned. Like the serving staff, several of whom have been with her for the earlier 10-15 a long time, they were being all about high-quality of company and guest expertise.

That team, as is the case at so quite a few dining places and organizations, was a household, she stated.

And on the working day, she advised that spouse and children the restaurant was closing, a lot of of them cried. All clapped.

It was no solution she experienced needed to retire for a prolonged time. Stanley experienced looked for the proper human being to consider it over, but that particular person never emerged. She set the organization up for sale in January and no offer was arrived at. So, she resolved it was time.

In the weeks due to the fact building that announcement, Stanley claimed she’s been flooded with blended feelings and emotions, but at no place has she 2nd guessed that the selection was the proper just one.

“The very last 4 many years have been extremely tumultuous,” she explained, alluding to a 2018 fire that closed the restaurant for two months and the pandemic which kept her doorways shut months on close.

As she prepares to serve her closing dishes and witness the cheers the previous beverages on Saturday, Stanley pauses to feel about the community sensation she was capable to construct at Food Dance, by her interactions with farmers and friends, but most importantly by offering a place for attendees to occur alongside one another in excess of food.

“That’s what I desired,” she mentioned. “I established out to establish local community and eating jointly is the solution. In every single other society in the planet, individuals collect all around the table and that is how it is carried out. I grew up with Tv trays. My loved ones never talked to every single other. They have been terrible.

“But I grew up in the 50s and which is why it was like that.”

Local community may well be the legacy she feels she is leaving powering, but for individuals like Carlson it’s what Julie and her husband Ed Stanley have intended to neighborhood farmers all over Southwest Michigan.

With Stanley, all food stuff experienced a story, he explained, and that is the critical for people today — to know wherever their food stuff will come from and what that tale is.

“When she’s place a story on her menu, it is simply because she’s arrive out and picked the eggs, she’s occur out and seen our animals,” he stated. “She can advise the slash of beef mainly because she saw that beef when it was alive, and she picked individuals veggies out fresh new, herself, at the Farmer’s Market.

“I’m exceptionally blessed and fortunate and it is for the reason that of Julie that our loved ones farm has the prospect to survive the legacy we have built, and it’s mainly because of Julie that we run the quantity that we do by means of Bronson and 600 and about at Lake Burger. These men all envisioned what regionally sourced is meant to be due to the fact of her.”

Also on MLive:

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