Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nationally-Renowned Chef Kevin Sousa Seeking Crowd-Funding for Revamped Braddock Restaurant Project

BRADDOCK, Pa. – Award-winning  Pittsburgh Chef Kevin Sousa made news last year when he announced he would open one of his cutting-edge restaurants in the distressed mill town of Braddock, PA.  He made news again when his plans to rehab an old building to house it proved too rich for investors’  tastes, and the project nearly died.

Chef Kevin Sousa works
with Braddock-area youth
at the community bread oven.
But now Sousa’s vision is making a comeback to rival that of this gritty municipality a few miles up the Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh where he and his family now live, a town which currently has no operating restaurant, fast food or otherwise.

The force in the kitchen behind such notable Pittsburgh restaurants  as Salt of the Earth and Union Pig & Chicken recently unveiled a new plan for what he calls a “community restaurant and farm ecosystem” to be called Superior Motors, named for the building’s original tenant, one of the country’s first indoor car dealerships.

Instead of wooing a few wealthy backers or big banks, Sousa has turned to the crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter to drum up the $250,000 he will need to turn his dream – one shared by Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and others – into reality. They see a 50-seat restaurant sourced by local farms, henhouses  and beekeepers, and staffed by local residents who will receive free culinary training as well as dining discounts, located in the shadow of a working steel mill – U.S. Steel Corp.’s venerable Edgar Thomson Works.

Supporters can invest as little as $1 in the project, although for a $25 outlay they can get a free entrée when the place opens. Larger contributions will bring dinner at Sousa’s home, or dinner with the illustrious Mayor Fetterman, who has become an unlikely international celebrity for his blue-collar approach to governing and urban revitalization. Out-of-towners and others willing to part with $100 will receive a limited edition Braddock T-shirt reading "Build it Back up" on the front and "Rebuilding 15104" on the back, designed by the Braddock Youth Project.

A $10,000 investment, unclaimed at presstime, would turn the place over for “an all-inclusive, custom designed corporate or holiday party, rehearsal dinner, graduation or any other dining/entertaining celebration of your designation for up to 25 guests in and around what is sure to be a one-of-a-kind restaurant ecosystem.” CLICK HERE to make your investment in Superior Motors, which was designed by Pittsburgh-based Studio for Spatial Practice.

The restaurant will be located (rent-free) on the ground floor of the building at 1211 Braddock Avenue, the loft of which is currently occupied by Fetterman and his wife, Gisele, who also has been active in driving the Braddock revitalization effort (Sousa and his family moved into their former quarters up the street).

That community-based ecosystem Sousa talks about combines food, farming, art, history, industry, training and lodging, according to the Kickstarter presentation.

“Superior Motors will truly embrace ‘farm to table’ and ‘local,’ with abundant access to fresh, organic produce from a two-acre urban farm one block away, a 1,000 sq. ft. rooftop greenhouse, as well as 4,000 sq. ft. of additional roof space to accommodate a raised bed garden.”

Superior Motors is located next to the Unsmoke alternative art gallery and performance venue housed in a formerly abandoned school which hosts new artists, studios, shows and openings every month. Between them is a hostel in a previously abandoned nunnery that will provide no-cost housing for culinary and service volunteers from all over the country, according to the Kickstarter page.

"For the first time in my career, “ says Sousa, “I have the opportunity to breathe life into a restaurant that is not chasing trends, but a restaurant that has no choice other than to represent a place and time by producing food representative of its past, present and future.”

By Thomas Buell, Jr.


New Pittsburgh Irish Business Network Formed by Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh; Kickoff Event Scheduled for Dec. 18

A new network of Pittsburgh-area companies and other organizations seeking to enhance links with the island of Ireland (North and South) has been formed by the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh in conjunction with local business leaders.

The Pittsburgh Irish Business Network will hold its kickoff event on Wednesday, Dec. 18 with a Christmas reception and presentation from the Industrial Development Authority of Ireland, at Mitchell's Restaurant, Ross Street, Downtown. Co-hosting the event is the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Brehon Law Society.

Doors open at 4 p.m.  Presentation by Helen Burke of the IDA begins at 4:30.  Holiday Season networking follows the presentation.  Your $10 admission may be applied to your 2014 annual membership.

Described as a member-driven network, the Pittsburgh Irish Business Network will provide formal programming on the Ireland Business opportunity, individual consultations, business, trade, investment, and cultural exchange, work and training visas, and more.

Over the next several months the Institute will host a series of presentations and networking events intended to encourage Pittsburgh area companies and business leaders to look seriously at Ireland, according to James Lamb, President of the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh and Honorary Consul of Ireland in Western Pennsylvania.

"From a business perspective, there is no better place than Ireland to explore international opportunities," Lamb said in an invitation to the Dec. 18 event. "Ireland is bouncing back from very difficult circumstances, surviving a harsh recession since 2008. With its low corporate tax rate, its smart young English-speaking work force, competitive wage and property rates, and its presence in the European economy with easier access to emerging markets in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, Ireland is positioned to help US companies expand quickly.  Ireland, right now, presents a ‘ground floor’ opportunity to your business."

Lamb cited several recent articles about Ireland business oportunities:



Membership in the Pittsburgh Irish Business Network costs $100 per year, Lamb said, which includes free admission to all PIBN events, notification of visits by leading Irish business and government representatives, Ireland Institute business consultancy services, and access to like-minded local leaders seeking enhanced partnership with Ireland, North and South. Future events will explore:
1.       The Northern Ireland business opportunity;
2.       Ireland’s talent working and learning in your company;
3.       The Penn State Football Game in Ireland, August 29—Travel there with the PIBN;
4.       Enterprise Ireland and the Irish company’s opportunity in Pittsburgh/USA

For more information, contact Lamb at 412-394-3900.


Monday, December 9, 2013

NPR's World Cafe to Focus on Pittsburgh Music Scene on "Sense of Place" Dec. 11 at 6 p.m. on WYEP 91.3

The national spotlight will be on Pittsburgh on the Wednesday, Dec. 11 episode of the World Café, which can be heard locally on WYEP FM 91.3.

David Dye and The World Café visit Pittsburgh for the “Sense of Place” series.  WYEP Morning Mix Host Cindy Howes will share her local music picks, David will visit with Jerry Weber of Jerry’s Records, and hear hometown music history with Billy Price, plus a live session with indie-pop band Donora.

The World Cafe with host David Dye serves up an eclectic mix of music from blues, rock, and world, to folk, and alternative country with live performances and interviews with celebrated and emerging artists. This acclaimed program, distributed nationally to over 200 stations across the country through NPR Music and airs weeknights on WYEP at 6 p.m.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Pittsburgh-born Fashion Designer Tereneh Mosley Tells Story of Collaborating with Maasai Women in Kenya on Clothing Line Based on Original Designs

Tereneh Mosley is a Pittsburgh-born fashion designer, entrepreneur and teacher whose latest project involves collaborating with women of the Maasai community in Kenya on a sustainable contemporary clothing collection based on their original designs. The following is her account of the experience. (Click on images to enlarge.)

The sky was the deepest indigo blue.  The stars were so close, I was looking out, not up to them. I was in Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya as a guest of the Maasai community. That night I reflected on the events of the day – the shared meal, the beautiful Maasai cave where I was to sleep, the stars, the stories, the welcoming warmth of the village – it all led to a love affair, I fell in love with the Maasai.

Tereneh Mosley
This was 2004, when I traveled to Kenya as a Rotary Ambassadorial scholar doing my Master’s thesis in fashion design on the social-cultural context of clothing, specifically how to incorporate indigenous design into contemporary clothing. Nearly 10 years later I returned to Kenya.

I spent the last two weeks of November 2013 at the Olorgesailie archeological museum site in the South Rift Valley, part of the Maasai ancestral homeland, where the Olorgesailie Maasai Women’s Group (OMHA) meet every day to sell their beautiful beadwork. The proceeds from these sales support their families. However, due to the remote location they have very few guests and even fewer sales. For many no sales means no food that day.

Seeing the beauty and technical skill of their work, I hoped the women would be interested in collaborating with me on an ethical apparel collection inspired by their designs. After nearly six weeks of traveling back and forth on the very bumpy road from Nairobi to Olorgesailie, they agreed.

Our first design meeting began with giggling. I had brought my laptop so they could see all of the Maasai-inspired designs of recent years, from Dior to Louis Vuitton and Givenchy to Pucci. Big fashion brands invoking the magic of the Maasai. Due to the reflection of the volcanic ash and hot sun, we could not see the image on the screen, so we decided to have our first meeting in one of the traditional manyattas (a Maasai home). We all crushed into this dark tiny space, I sat on the fire pit and we went through the images. As I scrolled through them they would point and say, “Maasai, Narok, Mara…”

Back in the shop area I taped pieces of paper with outlines of some design ideas on the tables.  I placed a variety of colored pencils on the table and said, “Okay, ladies go for it!”  The only woman in the group who spoke English was Elizabeth Kilakoi. She laughed with the other women, then explained:  “Most of them have never gone to school, have never held a pencil.  They have never written anything or drawn, this is very new to them.”

At first they all huddled over one sketch drawing together all at once. Then as one person would get an idea of her own she would move to a new sheet of paper. By day’s end we had 20 design sketches. The second day, another new set of designs. By the end of our time together we had run out of paper. The women are so creative that the original collection in my head completely morphed and evolved into something entirely more interesting, stronger. A true collaboration.

Our goal is to create a capsule collection, the OMHA-Idia’Dega collaboration called Tomon, which means 10 in the Maa language. This 10-piece sustainable apparel collection for women and men was inspired, designed and developed in full collaboration with the Maasai women.

On our last day the women presented me with a full Maasai outfit, including a breathtaking necklace, bracelets and earrings. I whispered, “This is too much.” I could not say it very loud because I was on the verge of crying. Many of the women were wearing torn old clothes and I was given this brand new outfit. Elizabeth said, “No we like to give, you are now one of us. We want you to wear this when you get to America, when you are asking people to support our project.”

When I asked the women what they would do with a steady income they said, “Have easier access to water, money to pay for their children to go to school, buying housing material for stronger homes (most live in wood and mud huts) and being able to have food every day.”

It was the most humbling and happiest moment of my life.

To learn more about the OMHA-Idia’Dega collaboration, visit the blog: http://idiadega.blogspot.com/2013/12/omwa-idiadega-whats-it-all-about.html or Facebook page at 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/IdiaDega-Elegant-Ethical-Apparel/181025701975268. And to help support the project you can view and purchase images from the Olorgesailie Maasai Cultural Heritage Festival at http://idiadega.shootproof.com/event/363061/view#a_all-mason.