April 6, 2022

“Food for Thought” Series Returns to Hopewell Theater

By Anne Levin

After an 18-month closure due to COVID-19, Hopewell Theater reopened last May. This spring, the theater brings back its popular “Food for Thought” series. Also known as the “The Art of Living Well,” this supper club concept pairs film, food, and panel discussions.

The series returns Tuesday, April 19 with a screening of the documentary The Oyster Farmers, dinner from chef Christopher Albrecht of The Ryland Inn, and a talk about efforts to sustain New Jersey’s waterways with Albrecht, Carolyn Klaube of the Sourland Conservancy, Kyle Gronostajski of the Jetty Rock Foundation, and Tim Dillingham of the American Littoral Society.

“We had always wanted to get back into supper clubs. We are a dine-in theater,” said Kendra Thatcher, programming production manager of the venue (formerly known as the Off Broad Street Dessert Theater). “This series really does complement the theater’s ethos, which is to be accessible, welcome the eclectic, and bring the community together. Food is a great way to do that. It’s kind of a natural thread.”

Thatcher should know. She was a recipe developer for the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, and remains active in the culinary community. “Food is at the heart of me,” she said.

The Oyster Catchers, which is about New Jersey oyster farmers cultivating a resurgence of the once-prolific eastern oyster, had been on her mind since before the pandemic. “Over the winter, Sara Scully [Hopewell Theater executive director and co-founder]  said to me, ‘I want you to run with your passion and what’s in your wheelhouse.’ I automatically thought about this film,” Thatcher said.

Instead of an elaborate five-course meal, which the series used to provide, the decision was made to return gradually to the supper club concept. “We’re doing something a little bit more accessible, not such an intense, sit-down dinner,” Thatcher said. “Because of COVID, we don’t know just how comfortable people are going to be at this point.”

Albrecht is planning an oyster-themed meal in line with the film. “I told him the idea, and he was on board right from the beginning,” she said.

The series is scheduled to continue May 24 with a screening of the film Julia, starring Meryl Streep as the late Julia Child; dinner by RSC atelier (formerly the Rosemont Supper Club); and a discussion with cookbook author Kristin Donnelly, cookbook author and television host Ian Knauer, and culinary instructor Supa DeRose. The meal will be an ode to Child and French cooking.

“Audiences will get more than a film, a meal, and an opportunity to listen to really smart people talk about these topics,” Thatcher said. “They’ll walk away from first program with an idea of how to participate in sustainability efforts. They’ll walk away from the second with a new understanding of how deep and rich our culinary culture is, and how it’s progressing.”

For both programs, patrons have the option to purchase just a film and discussion ticket, or a supper club ticket that includes the dinner. Patrons must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend. Visit hopewelltheater.com for information.

Thatcher praises Scully for being “as enthusiastic about culinary programming as I am,” she said. “What is so exciting is that this brings people to the table and brings the conversation to life. We live in such a foodie community. Tickets sales are showing the people are excited, and so are the panelists.”