Krista Brinser, Assistant Director, Community Relations
At Dichotomy in downtown Waco, steaming cup of coffee in hand—Carole Fergusson—the woman behind Waco Restaurant Week, shared her heart for Waco, commitment to the community, and why timing was right for the inaugural Waco Restaurant Week.
Six years ago, after watching the Houston community rally for a month-long restaurant and food scene celebration, Carole couldn't shake the feeling that this type of event was something Waco needed. After taking on a role at Start Up Waco, working with entrepreneurs of all types, including ones launching restaurants and mobile food options, she rallied her resources and started planning. What resulted from her efforts was Waco Restaurant Week, a one-week, city-wide event benefiting Caritas, a local organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty in Waco.
Throughout the course of the week, beginning with a kick-off event, guests dined at participating establishments and enjoyed featured menu items as well as enjoying special pop-ups and activations featuring community organizations and eateries. A capstone event concluded the week.
Carole knew highlighting Waco's restaurant startups would be critical for a successful event. "I was researching [Restaurant Week] and understanding what would make sense for our community. I thought about our food trucks, our pop-up people who don't have a brick and mortar location because those are the ones who are really starting to create our food culture. We had an existing one, but they are starting to come in and really start to elevate it."
After completing research on Waco's market and evaluating possibilities and challenges for the event—she set her goal of 25 participants, exceeding expectations by enrolling 65, including six new concepts that launched during the week.
"I think the fact that a lot of these food entrepreneurs passionately care about what they are making and what they are giving to and feeding to the community, more than just making a dime…these are people that are setting up a really unique food landscape that hasn't always been here. I think it's really special and it goes back to the community aspect. Through great food, great service, and great employees, they really are tying in the fact the community is the main focus. That passion is real. I think that's something as local Wacoans, even new Wacoans, we can all be proud of and feel a part of. You can find a community wherever they are, Franklin Mac House, Sabor, Waco Cha, and more…just the moment of getting a cup of coffee is creating a place for community."
Through this sense of community—businesses and Wacoans coming together to celebrate the city's special food culture, Waco Restaurant Week raised over 18,000 meals for Caritas of Waco.
As for her favorite dish from the event? "I cannot stop thinking about Franklin Avenue Mac House. They take something so simple and make it so unforgettable. Who doesn't like mac and cheese? Right now, my daughter is on a huge mac and cheese thing, so of course, if she has it, I have it. It's nice to have gourmet mac and cheese."