Aakshi Chaba

Soft rap music, fairy lights, name tags and Modern Apizza: This was the eclectic combination of smells, sounds and sights that greeted those who walked into the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op on Tuesday evening.

New Haven’s first Food Entrepreneurship Meetup, an event designed to bring the community together around a shared love for food and creativity, was held at the repair shop on Nov. 14. Organized by Dwight Hall, The Table Underground, Collaboratory and Atticus Bookstore, the event was the first of a series of meetups to unite New Haven’s foodies.

Tagan Engel, the founder of The Table Underground — a website, radio show and podcast about food justice — said the purpose of the first meetup was to gather ideas and build community.

“We’re not trying to dictate at all what [this series] is,” explained Engel, who helped organize the event. “It’s about where people’s passions are and who has energy to work on those things and supporting that happening.”

The centerpiece of the bike co-op — a row of easels covered with requests and ideas for the series that the participants had jotted down on sticky notes — echoed the organic feel of the event that Engel spoke about.

Also contributing to the informal atmosphere were the “rules” of the event, which included talking to someone new, contributing ideas to the easels, as well as making a name tag and recording a pizza preference.

Onyeka Obiocha, the director of innovation for Dwight Hall, highlighted the importance of these welcoming characteristics in events such as the meetup.

“I’m really under the understanding that you can have safer, healthier and happier communities if you bring people together,” said Obiocha, one of the organizers of the event. “The best way [to bring communities together] … is around a specific subject.”

The event was not limited to food experts. Curious, food-loving citizens were also in attendance, including Tom Flynn, a resident of Wallingford, who said he came to the gathering because he wanted to know more about New Haven’s food scene.

“I’m not in the industry. I’m a pure amateur in that regard,” he said. “It’s a business that’s always fascinated me.”

Richard Park ’21 and Max Li ’21, two students representing Elmseed, a campus consulting group, also attended the event.

Park explained that after working on a project with Cityseed, a local nonprofit that focuses on food sustainability, he came to the bike co-op on behalf of Elmseed to learn more about New Haven’s food community.

“We’re here to get a better feel of the food industry and the challenges they’re facing,” Park said.

The Food Entrepreneurship Meetup is the first of a monthly series, with the next gathering planned for January 2018.

Aakshi Chaba | aakshi.chaba@yale.edu