by James DeChene
This week was the 8th Annual Taste of Delaware event, which the State Chamber held in partnership with honorary host, Senator Chris Coons. Postponed from December, the event this year coincided with spring in the nation’s capital, including cherry blossoms, sunny skies and an unfortunate last inning win by the Nationals.
We saw 600 plus attendees who filtered in and out of the historic Kennedy Caucus Room, which featured scenes such as the Watergate hearings and nomination hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Over 20 vendors, including some of Delaware’s iconic establishments, the Starboard, Home Grown Café, SoDel Concepts, the DelTech and DelCastle culinary programs and more, served up tasty treats. These vendors showcased, from north to south what Delaware has to offer. Many thanks to our friends in Delaware who made the trip down, to the ex-pats who may have left the First State but are always happy to visit, and for the new friends we made across Capitol Hill. See you again this December.
In other news, the General Assembly returns next week. Of note are two personal income tax bills to be heard in the House Finance Committee (DSCC opposes both), a bill mandating apprentices on certain public works projects to be heard in the House Labor Committee (DSCC opposes as written), and a bill creating an infrastructure investment fund at DelDOT supporting economic development to be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee (DSCC supports).
Pictures from the Taste of Delaware:
Maybe it’s a continuation of my turkey coma, but I saw a lot of positive things happening this week in and around Delaware you may have missed. Chamber member, and Taste of Delaware participant, Waggies by Maggie & Friends, a Wilmington nonprofit dog treat company that employs people with intellectual disabilities, has won the $10,000 grand prize in M&T Bank’s first Understanding What’s Important Business Challenge. Maggie’s has been a great friend of the Chamber, and everyone here is so pleased at their award. Congrats!
The announcement of a sports arena to be built by the Riverfront, with a connecting bridge to area attractions like Iron Hill and Frawley Stadium, is huge for Wilmington. Above and beyond what it can bring for economic development, it’s a major quality of life project for an area of the City that desperately needs one. Kudos to Governor Carney, Mayor Purzycki, and BPG for working together to bring this project to Delaware.
Speaking of Governor Carney, you may have read about the release, a bit early, of his Wilmington schools plan. While the plan will undergo a number of changes, what struck me was the Governor taking the time to visit residents of Wilmington in person, urging them to participate in the process and to educate them about what his plan will mean for Wilmington kids and families. Door knocking can be hard, and at times even unpleasant, but it’s also one of the best ways to sell your message. Color me impressed.
Lest you think I’ve lost my Grinch-esque ways, let me end by saying we’re following chatter that there’s an effort afoot to build support in order to increase Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50%, with an 8% carve out for solar generation. Currently, Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) are established by the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act (REPSA), which provides that utilities procure an increasing percentage of their electricity from renewable resources, leading up to 25% of energy derived from renewable sources by 2025. Obviously we’ll be watching this closely.
It's common knowledge that Delaware likes it's food - one of the reasons we love our Taste of Delaware event at the Capitol each year. It's also why culinary arts programs are popular tracks for students to follow, and why you can bet these students are serving up delicious meals.
When you are deciding where to go for lunch, or who to cater your board meeting, Wilmington certainly offers a wide variety of options. We highly recommend adding Delcastle Technical High School to that list.
Delcastle Technical High School has been a Taste of Delaware participant for several years now. Taste of Delaware caters to more than 600 attendees, featuring over 20 Delaware food and drink vendors. Sophomores and juniors in the culinary arts program, and who are part of the school's Cooks and Bakers Club, join us and Senator Coons' staff before the event begins to help set up the area and help vendors with their equipment and food. During the event, they man registration and run errands and items for our vendors in order to keep things running smoothly. We appreciate the extra hands on deck, and they get a first hand look at a culinary event of large proportion, from beginning to end.
This week, some of our staff visited the instructional staff and students of the culinary arts program at Delcastle for lunch at Binders Cafe. We were blown away!
This week's menu boasted chicken stir fry made to order, cajun shrimp over greens with a citrus vinaigrette, and perch tacos with pineapple rice. Don't forget the chicken noodle and butternut squash soups, Delcastle's own homemade potato chips, or the grab-and-go selections of pre-made wraps and sandwiches. The dessert of the day was German chocolate cake, but we were too fond of their signature chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies. We were seated and served by students, who learn customer service skills as well during their studies, and were treated with fresh rolls and blueberry sweet potato bread, served with cinnamon butter.
Delcastle's culinary arts program is designed to provide students with the opportunity to reach competency in major areas of food preparation. Students are expected to work in all areas of the culinary arts field, including dining room operations, cooking, bakeshop, and pastry making. They will be expected to work individually, in groups, and in a professional kitchen brigade to experience a wide range of learning experiences in keeping with industry expectations. Those who have demonstrated a mastery of the major culinary learning targets will have the opportunity to experience extended cooperative employment in their senior year. Students are able to earn college credit through Tech Prep Agreements with area and out of state colleges. Students also have the opportunity to earn ServSafe Sanitation certification (a nationally recognized certification that lasts for five years).
The Cooks and Bakers Club is a volunteer cooking troupe that serves several purposes: to introduce children to the science of cooking (Delcastle students volunteer at places like Ronald McDonald House to teach resident children), to help prepare students for state and national cooking competitions, and to further their training through community service learning projects, like baking cookies for each Delaware police officer every year, and 'living classroom' experiences, such as the Taste of Delaware.
We thank the staff and students and Binders Cafe for hosting us!
Call the school at (302) 995-8100 to inquire about Binders Cafe catering and dining.
Delcastle Technical High School students helped vendors prep their tables and serve attendees at the 6th Annual Taste of Delaware.
Students assisted with event setup by unloading vendor equipment from the docking area.
Delcastle Technical High School students in the Capitol Building.
DSCC staff with sophomore chefs-in-training, who were able to join us for dessert this week at Binders Cafe.
The 6th Annual Taste of Delaware, held fittingly on Delaware Day in Washington, D.C., featured more attendees than ever, with food and beverages from around the state on display. The event, hosted by the State Chamber along with honorary host US Senator Chris Coons, highlights Delaware companies, like Dogfish Head, Painted Stave Distillery, SoDel Concepts and Sea Watch, along with culinary students studying at Delaware Technical Community College and Delcastle Technical High School. With over 600 attendees this year and 25 featured vendors, the annual Taste of Delaware is an opportunity for DC insiders to mix with Delawareans and bond over what Delaware has to offer.
This year, cameo appearances were made by Senators Carper, Coons and Durbin (IL), Congressman and Governor-elect Carney, and Blue Rocks mascots Rocky and Mr. Celery. Most notably, a special visit was made by Vice President Biden, coming from his earlier tribute event held on the Senate floor. The VP spoke for 15 minutes covering a range of topics—thanking Delawareans for supporting him when he needed it most following the passing of his first wife, and later his son Beau; reflections on his start in politics; the challenges the US and the world has faced during his career; and a call for Democrats and Republicans to come together, in the Delaware Way, to help support the new administration.
The State Chamber would like to thank the vendors for their participation. We would also like to thank everyone who made the trip to Washington from Delaware, who help make this event successful. Finally, we would like the recognize and thank Senator Coons and his staff, both in Delaware and in D.C., for their help in planning and day-of help in ensuring this year was the best event yet. Until next year.
More than 400 guests, crowded into the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday, December 9 for a chance to sample the best hospitality, food and drinks from some of Delaware’s top eateries at the 5th Annual Taste of Delaware celebration. Co-hosted by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and Senator Coons, the tradition brings together Delawareans and D.C. guests to enjoy the finest of the first state’s eats.
Taste of Delaware has humble beginnings to say the least. The first “unofficial” Taste of Delaware took place four years ago in a conference room just a week after Senator Coons took office. The gathering consisted of about 20 people enjoying a small sampling of Grotto Pizza, Capriotti’s sandwiches and Dogfish Head beer. Three years later, the event has gained a reputation among congressional staff and legislators as one of the can’t-miss events of the year.
The event is held annually as close to “Delaware Day” as possible. Since 1933, the governors of Delaware have proclaimed December 7 as Delaware Day in honor of that day in 1787 when Delaware became the first state to ratify the Federal Constitution, thus making Delaware the first state in the New Nation.
Senator Coons thanked guests and vendors for taking part in the event and encouraged those who enjoyed themselves to come to Delaware and explore more of the state’s culinary – and tax free – offerings.
“Who would have thought, just five years ago sitting around a conference room table at our first Taste of Delaware, that it would have grown to a celebration of this magnitude,” said Sen. Coons. “Looking around the room, and talking with the proud owners of these establishments, you can tell that these people love Delaware, love their customers, and really enjoy being part of the hospitality family in Delaware.”
Sen. Coons also remarked that the success of the event comes from the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s participation, coordination, and passion of the event.
“This event has become one of the Chamber favorites in the past five years,” said Delaware Chamber of Commerce President Rich Heffron. “We enjoy the partnership with Senator Coons’ office and staff, and it’s great to brag about Delaware offerings at the national level each year.”
Vendors from more than 20 restaurants, bakeries, breweries, and wineries from all corners of the state came to share their goods with D.C. guests, many of whom were Delaware transplants hungry for a taste of home.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.