BILLINGS — With worker shortages, shipping delays, and the pandemic, many Montana restaurants are struggling. But one Billings man is trying to help by organizing a food festival.
Ryan Hendrickson knows there are a ton of great restaurants and breweries in Billings. As a business manager at US Foods, he wants to showcase what the city has to offer.
“Crave is a food festival that’s been going on for the last several years in Spokane, Washington, that was created by a customer of mine, Adam Hegsted,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson invited Hegsted, a Spokane chef, to Billings to see what they could cook up. They spent the day touring local restaurants to pitch their idea.
“Just getting to know the community, getting plugged in, seeing who’s interested in being a part of Crave,” Hendrickson said.
Restaurants and breweries have been receptive so far.
“Every place we’ve visited has had a lot of great feedback and people are excited about it,” Hegsted said.
One of the team’s first stops was Grains of Montana, and owner Kyle Nielsen is already on board.
“When they do something like this and we get to be involved in it, it helps us really spread and let people know who we are,” Nielsen said.
The team then went to the Marble Table where Chef Jason Marble had created his own signature dishes for them to try while they discussed prospective plans.
“I think it’d be fantastic for our community of chefs and restaurants. It would do a lot for our industry,” Marble said.
The next stop was at Meadowlark Brewing, a Sidney-based brewery that hasn’t opened its new location in Billings. The team will leave no stone unturned.
Travis Peterson, founder of Meadowlark, is all for Crave.
“I think it gives people in the restaurant side, not necessarily the beverage side, some opportunity to be creative, get in front of people, explain who they are and tell their story,” Peterson said.
The team behind Crave food festival hopes to add some spice to the menu by providing a way to jumpstart new businesses like Meadowlark.
“There’s a lot of those delays and shortages in shipping and manufacturing that everybody is kind of feeling the hurt on,” Peterson said.
Hegsted believes there’s potential in having Crave food festival in Billings, despite the pandemic road bumps and worker shortages along the way.
“I think there’s enough people here to drive that food culture,” Hegsted said.
Hendrickson and Hegsted are hoping to bring Crave to Billings in the summer of 2023.