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Tom Spicer Has Harsh Words For Pop-Up Dinner Chef

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Can't take the heat, stay outta the kitchen alert: there's a Facebook flame-war a-brewing over underground dinners and locally supplied produce. Here's what's what: Chef Nicole Van Camp (of Nana, Bolsa) has been a staple over at Crave DFW for the past few weeks, featuring prominently in a number of pieces about her popular under-the-radar pop-up dinners at My Private Chef in Deep Ellum. She's got another planned for this Saturday night, with some local produce coming from FreshPoint ("North America's Largest Fresh Produce Distributor"). In her most recent Facebook invite for the event, sent out to a couple hundred folks, Chef Nicole also gave a shout-out to Oak Cliff food co-op Urban Acres.

What she got back: a harsh reply-all message from long-time local farmer and food producer Tom Spicer of Spiceman's FM 1410, wherein he calls her "Ms. fast trackin' princess," and with reference to Chef David Anthony Temple of his own rightful underground dinner fame: "female Chef DAT but not nearly as good."

Our tipster, privy to the goings-on on the invitation thread, copies us on this Facebook message, sent to 207 people on Chef Nicole's invite list, from Spicer:

Oh REALLY!?!? I know that big F.P. Corporation Well...and does Urban Acres grow anything ? If so do they have what I have right outside thier back door?
Play your little "local" game Ms. fast trackin' princess (female Chef DAT but not nearly as good).
I didn't ask for all the press and attention I've received (including front page Wall Street Journal)...this is just what I have done for the past 27 years...btw, how old are you?

you are FUNNY


Tom Spicer

Seeking clarification, we got Spicer on the phone--his garden supplies a number of local high-end places, from Craft to Bolsa and once upon a time, York Street, RIP--and he has a lot to say, the gist of which is: FreshPoint is a huge distributor, and he's as local as it gets. Why not buy from Spicer, who's got a nice bunch of arugula and more growing over in his "cracked out empty lot" in East Dallas? Why not get your locally sourced organic urban pop-up dinner from, well, local sources? Especially from a guy who's worked farms his whole life, helping small growers get off the ground and floundering farms profitable? He started off: "I'm just in a bad mood, for one."

And continued: "I'm tired of DAT stuff. I got DAT started. I'm not trying to take credit for anybody." He told us how he used to supply for FreshPoint, knows what a huge operation they are. He's been in the local produce business for 27 years, he told us, and he's tired of seeing upstarts talk the talk and not walk the walk--when he's been doing it for decades.

"When Nicole started doing the same shit, I just can't take it any more. Not only is she self-promoting, and everything's local and organic, but FreshPoint? That's a huge corporation. Is she buying anything from me? The person who's helped her?" He says he's "a struggling small grower. People who know me, know me ... I raise money for charities. I bend over backwards. I should be a charity for this community! Nobody's giving me money! Come invest in my little operation. I've done nothing but create success. Turned farms around. I'm bringing the neighborhood up."

Spicer went on to say that it was "nothing personal" against Chef Nicole, but "I've probably been doing this as long as she is old." From now on, says Spicer, he's going to "opt out." He says, "I'm sick of this trendy crap. I'm just gonna opt out. I wish Nicole the best, but good God, I'm a struggling small business and you're promoting FreshPoint?"

But it looks like for now, Chef DAT and Chef Nicole are both opting in by responding to the Facebook thread. From Chef DAT:

Tom Spicer is the king of produce in the south and has been for over 20 years. Don't take it from me ask Sharon Hage, The Mansion, Nonna, Craft, Bolsa, Cedars Social, Yutaka Sushi, Tei-An, and many more. Including restaurants that name drop Tom Spicer and don't even buy from him just to sound cool. We are fortunate to have such a genius in this city that grows and provides the service of having the best wild foraged and local grown produce available.

As for Nicole, I helped her get her dinner program off the ground and running and have always supported her. She is new to this game and has a lot of curveballs that will come her way and boy is it tough. I started the Underground Dinner movement in Dallas almost 2 years ago. It has been a long hard ride. I think anyone that tries to do what I have done is mentally insane. Nicole has here shit together and is great in the kitchen! If anyone could do it right it would be her.

Thank you,
Chef DAT

And from Chef Nicole:
Ok everyone, lets not get vicious. I think most of you who really know me know that I work really hard to make personal relationships and support my local farmers. In fact, up untill now I have supported Tom Spicer. I know he sees Fresh Point as his mortal enemy, but if they are supporting/purchasing local produce from farmers and want to make a one time donation to the supper club, I'll take it.

Urban Acres does not grow anything, they are a co-op that sells lots of local produce, honey, dairy, meat etc.
One more thing to clear up, I worked with Chef DAT for a few months and had tons of fun cooking at his underground dinners, so much so I was inspired to start doing my own. We are 2 different chefs with 2 different styles of cooking, we support each other and all other chefs who are working hard and creating pop-up dinners.

Thank you.

As far as not getting vicious, Spicer says he sent an e-mail to Chef Nicole apologizing for disparaging her talent, but sticking to his guns on the FreshPoint thing.

· Pop-Up Dinner Fun And Excitement [CraveDFW]
· Spiceman's FM 1410 [CraveDFW]

Tom Spicer's garden in Old East Dallas. [Photo: Spiceman's/Facebook]

Spiceman's 1410

1410 -B N. Fitzhugh Ave., Dallas, TX 75204