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First Slice Making a Lasting Impact

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Oct 27, 2006 4:15PM

How would you like to have delicious gourmet meals delivered to your home several times a week? And even better, how would you like to know that the money you pay for the food isn’t going to some huge corporation, but instead towards feeding the hungry in Chicago?

Meet First Slice, an innovative, self-funded, non-profit organization started by Mary Ellen Diaz, former chef at the acclaimed North Pond restaurant.

2006_10_firstslice.jpgThe organization, which is profiled in November’s Food & Wine, uses money from the shareholder program and a cafe at 4401 N. Ravenswood Ave. to fund gourmet food distribution to 400 hungry people a week. What kind of food are we talking about? How about Italian chopped salad, spinach and butternut squash lasagna with mushroom and roasted red pepper dip, and chocolate-peanut butter pie for dessert. We aren’t going to tell you what Chicagoist had for dinner last night, but it definitely wasn’t as nutritious or gourmet as the meal First Slice served. The Food & Wine piece offers a couple of Diaz’s recipes as an accompaniment to the article, and we are pumped about trying out this cauliflower soup with pecans and rye croutons.

The name, First Slice, comes from Diaz’s philosophy of community. "Pie is a symbol of community, and giving the first slice is like giving the best," Diaz told Food & Wine. "This organization gives the first slice to people who rarely get anything special." Diaz emphasizes locally grown produce in her cooking for First Slice: “I use a lot of the same local suppliers that I did when I was a restaurant chef,” she said. “The farmers I work with are community-based and a bit quirky and anti-establishment, like me.”

For her, community doesn’t just mean local Chicago residents. For example, First Slice cooked a lot of Cajun food last fall to help out people who were displaced after Hurricane Katrina and living in Chicago. For more information about First Slice, including how to subscribe to their shareholder program or get involved in volunteering, visit their website.

Image via Pradeep Jeganathan.