The PechaKucha format is brilliant. Japanese for “chit chat,” it was invented in Tokyo in 2003, and since has spread to almost 800 different locations worldwide. They call it the 20×20 format. A presenter is given an opportunity to choose 20 different slides and talk for 20 seconds about each one. This is an excellent cure for the ailment which plagues many public speeches—people talking way too long, and going on many different tangents. The presenters have six minutes and forty seconds to discuss whatever they want, and they are pushed along by a slideshow, which is moving on without them. To anyone who has listened to someone drone on publicly while people cough and shift in their chairs, this format is heaven sent. Tristan Shepherd organized the event. “The idea is to have as many presentations in one night that cover as many different topics as possible,” he says. “People are always interested—they are always engaged. It is exciting.”
SLUG was invited to Volume 12 of PechaKucha Night in Salt Lake City. The event was held at the new Publik coffee location, which seems to be the perfect venue. There was plenty of room for the many people that were there, and the space’s aesthetic of sparse urban modernity fit the event’s vibe. Publik’s staff was on hand serving their house-roasted brew, which was on point, as always. The unofficial theme of the event was “food,” so most of the presenters were affiliated with some kind of food or drink entity in Salt Lake City. The event began with open socializing fueled by complimentary beer from Wasatch Brewery, as well as excellent pastries by Les Madeleines pâtisserie. I favored the American Wheat Hefeweizen as a last shout out to summer before the retreat into my cave for the upcoming winter hibernation. I’ll admit I had more than one salted chocolate chip cookie from the multiple tempting platters laid out amidst pear and white chocolate macaroons, apple and marscapone puff tartlets and l’ancien favori: cream puffs.
A few of Salt Lake’s favorite food trucks were on hand outside as well. Dottie’s Biscuit Barn—which is a small wooden barn on wheels—was serving up country favorites with a contemporary twist. I chose the balsamic-braised beef topped with crème fraîche, served on an asiago cheese thyme biscuit. It was served alongside watermelon chunks mixed with feta and mint leaves. The latter sounds like an odd combination, but one taste was enough to quell any doubts about their culinary prowess. Better Burger was there with grass-fed beef, and the venerable Chow Truck with asian tacos and sliders, making the choice of what to eat almost impossible. I had experienced these two before, so I went with the personal unknown.
After eating, the group filed into Publik’s huge ancillary space (I have always wondered what it was for) to hear from the speakers. All of the presentations were genuinely interesting. It was a pleasure to see the faces behind some of Salt Lake County’s most unique food/drink offerings. We heard from Erik Ostling, one of the people behind our local brand of “dutch courage,” Beehive Distilling’s Jack Rabbit gin. We heard Viet Pham’s tale of how he went from being miserable in a cubicle analyzing data for a software company, to starting Forage, one of SLC’s most lauded high-end restaurants. Amy Eldridge, the bartending consultant for Bar X, Rye, and the Grand America hotel was nervous to speak (by her own admission), though her expertise in cocktails showed through—along with a little sass. “The word mixologist bums me out. I shouldn’t be ashamed to call myself a bartender,” she says. Vanessa Chang gave a rousing tribute to “funk,” making the bold proclamation that “all of the best things in life are fermented,” referring to wine, cheese, kimchi and spirits. “Food is a great way to say ‘I love you,’” she says. Lavanya Mahate of Saffron Valley restaurant tortured us with delicious looking photos of underrated Indian food in her presentation titled “Twenty Dishes to Try Before You Die.” Dylan Sands, the coffee director at Publik, showed us just how big of a coffee geek he really is (in a good way). He also spoke about the need to get back to knowing our food and where it comes from.
The next PechaKucha event will be held at The Fallout on Oct. 13 to kick off SL Design Week. Tickets are required and the event will likely sell out quickly. It is an excellent opportunity to hear from SLC’s movers and shakers. The website says the next event’s purpose will be to “discuss and present ideas and thoughts about DIY, the maker movement, craft, creativity, and our community.” If it is anything like their last event, it should be a night well spent.