Cheree Boteler is hungry (and Hungry). She knows Reno is hungry. And she’s sure Sparks is hungry, too.
Boteler, who presents local food and drink events under her Hungry in Reno brand, just announced Reno Food & Drink Week is returning for its third year, from June 1-8. The inaugural Sparks Food & Drink Week follows from June 8-15.
“The last day of the Reno event launches the first day of the Sparks event — that’s on purpose,” Boteler said. “I have always wanted Reno and Sparks to work together on food and drink weeks: Sparks people going to Reno to eat, Reno people going to Sparks to eat.
“I’m hoping the success of Reno Food & Drink Week will blow over to Sparks, so people start thinking, ‘Where should I go in Sparks?’ I don’t know if it will work, but I thought I’d try.”
Last year, more than 100 food and drink spots participated in Reno Food & Drink Week. A few hours after she made her announcement, I sat down with Boteler for a Q&A session about the events.
(Visit here for event details/registration for establishments. Deadline is April 11. Visit here for sponsorship information)
JLW: We’ll get to the Sparks week in a bit, but let’s start with Reno Food & Drink Week, which is back for a third run. What have you learned along the way?
Hungry: Food & Drink Week is not about discounts, no buy-one-get-one-free. That’s not what our community wants. I really wanted to cater to the audience that wants and is willing to pay for an experience, whether that’s $5 tacos or a five-star dining experience.
It’s about getting people into the establishments and showing what everyone in the food and drink industry can do, not discounts.
JLW: The week also functions as a laboratory for some restaurants, doesn’t it?
Hungry: Absolutely. If a certain ingredient is in season, they can make something around that ingredient, something that’s not on their regular menu. If the dish goes well for restaurant week, they can add it to the regular menu.
Along the same lines, is there an ingredient that’s used in only a handful of dishes at the restaurant? If so, you can use that for a food and drink week special, too.
JLW: What’s something new this year for Reno Food & Drink Week?
Hungry: Pineapple Pedicabs, only in Reno, is going to be a transportation partner. They’re going to develop tours around the different establishments and offer those to the community to enjoy.
JLW: OK, on to Sparks Food & Drink Week. The Reno event is a lot of work. What made you want to expand to Sparks?
I grew up in Sparks, so there’s a lot of nostalgia. Sparks has a very culturally diverse food scene. A lot of people have no idea. Sparks needs more of a light shined on culturally diverse restaurants. If you really want to celebrate local diversity in food and drink, you have to include Sparks.
Plus, it helps the city in general to support the food and drink industry.
JLW: How many restaurants would you like to bring aboard for the first Sparks restaurant week?
Hungry: I would really love to have 20 on board. I’ve just started recruiting.
JLW: Will you make any money from the Sparks week? Do you make any money from the Reno week?
Hungry: I don’t make any money from Reno, and I won’t make any money from Sparks. That’s the case this year. I’ve thought about maybe paying myself, but I don’t want to make it expensive to participate. This is really about championing the food and drink industry, not making a ton of money.
JLW: How does the charity component work for the food and drink weeks?
Hungry: All net proceeds from the food weeks and all Hungry in Reno events are donated to the Hungry Gives Back charities. For 2022, they are Nevada Youth Empowerment Project, Safe Embrace, Sparks Heritage Museum and Step2.
The net proceeds are divided among the charities at the end of the year. Last year, Hungry in Reno donated more than $7,000.
(Editor’s note: Nevada Youth Empowerment Project provides housing and programs for at-risk young women. Safe Embrace assists people who have experienced domestic violence. Sparks Heritage Museum highlights the history of the Rail City. Step2 provides treatment and services relating to substance abuse, domestic violence and trauma.)
JLW: I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but I’m going to go there: What dish can you not live without?
Hungry: A really good Caesar salad, and what makes a really good Caesar is good bite-size chunks of lettuce, dressed well, with a slight hint of anchovy but not too much, with a little extra Parmesan cheese. That’s always my go-to. If you make a good Caesar, I’ll come back for it.
JLW: And what’s a drink you can’t live without?
Hungry: I love whiskey. A very rare whiskey, that I don’t want to buy a bottle of. If I could sip on that with a Caesar salad, life would be heaven.
JLW: Speaking of drinks — time to order.
Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor for Reno News & Review. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsJLW or on Facebook personally or at @FoodNevada. Sign up here for the Reno News & Review free weekly newsletter highlighting our most recent stories.