By Emory Alan Skolkin
NASHVILLE, TN — When is the last time you tried a new foreign cuisine or welcomed another culture at your table? Renuka Christoph’s vision is that everyone in Nashville should have affordable and easy access to a multicultural experience. Through her parent company Christoph Communications, she has launched a Passport to the Nations in Our Neighborhood (NiON).
The Passport will offer holders one complimentary chef’s sample plate at every participating restaurant, a total 18, over the course of five months. Included among these restaurants are some of the most well-known in Nashville such as Chauhan Ale & Masala House and Tansuo, owned by Indian celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan. Also included are access to a kick-off party at Plaza Mariachi June 1 and closing celebration at the Bavarian Bierhaus Oct. 4. In addition, holders will get one home delivered ethnic meal from Gigamunch (valued at $34.99). The cost of the Passport is $39.99.
“I love trying new foods but it can be overwhelming figuring out where to go,” states Davidson County counselor Tracy Bernstein. “The passport maps that out for me and I’m excited to sample food at each of the restaurants.”
Christoph envisions NiON as a way to embrace Nashville’s diverse culture. “This program is designed for all ages to participate and learn about the city’s diversity in a fun way,” she said. “We’re more than country music and barbecue.”
Indeed, the 11 iconic Tennessee foods listed on a CultureTrip post – fried pickles, catfish, mac n cheese, and of course hot fried chicken – fall short of what Nashville truly has to offer.
But there’s also a bigger opportunity cost to avoiding these hidden sub-cultures of Nashville: economic stimulus. Yes, Nashville’s official website lists some Italian restaurants, but most are American style, offering typical southern comfort food. Christoph was left asking: where’s the Middle Eastern? The French? The Mediterranean & Greek, Kurdish, or Indian food? Many travelers, for example, might not be aware that Nashville is also known as “Little Kurdistan.”
Christoph’s timing couldn’t be better. According to the Nashville Convention Visitors Corp’s website visitmusiccity.com, Nashville’s tourism industry is growing at an alarming rate – 45 percent over the past ten years, bringing close to 14 million people per year (2016). She began taking note on the void of international culinary coverage and became impassioned to make a change. In 2016, Christoph teamed up with the Nashville Convention Visitors Corp. and started promoting ethnic cuisine through Global Beats.
Butch Spyridon, president of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., is quite proud of Global Beats’ partnership with the city, stating, “Nashville’s success is predicated on a diverse and authentic message.”
There are also shifting demographics within greater Nashville that make services and organizations like NioN that much more important. Arthur C. Nelson, Ph.D, a fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, predicts that non-Hispanic Whites will become less dominant in the economic arena of Greater Nashville.
He continues his predictions: ”Nearly all population growth to 2040 will be attributable to racial and ethnic minorities which I call collectively the New Majority.” Christoph believes serving this population is integral to the economic vitality of any city.
A joint report of Demographic Trends in Nashville between Woods and Poole Economics, Inc. and the University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) states that given housing, generational, employment, and ethnic changes, “These demographics trends require future plans to be accommodating to a more racially and economically diverse population, bringing new residents forward, without leaving anyone behind.”
The report sums up Nashville’s ethnic prospects aptly in layman’s terms: “In other words, demographic trends should be presented as an opportunity to search for commonalities of interests, and the promising contributions that newcomers can make.”
The story of Christoph’s launching NiON is a relatable reminder that one citizen, one activist, can indeed make a difference. “We have our immigrant populations to thank for bringing their rich cultural heritage into our communities and sharing global flavors from around the world,” says Christoph.
Passports can be purchased online or at the following locations:
Savory Spice Shop, 324 Main St, Franklin, TN 37064 (Sample spice packet included)
Bavarian Bierhaus in Opry Mills, 121 Opry Mills Dr, Nashville, TN 37214
Le Creuset, 330 Franklin Rd #266B, Brentwood, TN 37027
Follow @NationsinOurNeighborhood and please visit www.nationsinourneighborhood.com.