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No wait-lists at PCG's Back Porch Brunch 

It's time to rise and dine

Weekend brunch is an event you must plan for with some skill. At some of Charlotte's favorite restaurants, if you don't time your arrival just right, you'll be waiting a good 30 or 40 minutes to be seated. But we do it. We wait, however hungry or hungover we may be, for a coveted table. Our reward, whether bottomless mimosas or red velvet waffles, is worth it.

This weekend, the Piedmont Culinary Guild and Charlotte Center City Partners have come together to offer a low-key brunch event that has no waiting list. Back Porch Brunch takes place May 3 in South End; all of the proceeds will go to benefit PCG, a hub for local chefs, food artisans, farmers and more, and its mission of strengthening the ties of the local culinary community.

"The idea is to offer a sampling from some of our PCG talented chefs that include some of their favorite brunch dishes with either ingredients that were sourced locally or purveyed from artisan purveyors here in the area," says Kris Reid, the Guild's executive director.

In addition to having a roster of 10 chefs — including The Yolk's Gregory Collier, littleSpoon's Miles Payne and Bonterra's Blake Hartwick — throwing together their best brunch items using local ingredients from Lucky Leaf Gardens, Bosky Acres Goat Cheese, Garnet Gals jellies and jams, and Toska Truffles, mixologist Bob Peters from The Punch Room will be showing off his bartending skills using liquors from Muddy River Distillery and TOPO Organic Spirits.

The casual event will take place next door to Sycamore Brewing on the back porch of the Shook Kelley building. On a warm spring day, runners on the Rail Trail pass by without a second glance to the industrial-looking space that could have been a loading dock in the past. One of Center City Partners' goals with this event, says Reid, is to draw attention to the venue, which looks out across the light rail tracks to Atherton Market, Luna's Living Kitchen and Vin Master Wine Shop.

The brunch will also be an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the talents and tastes the area offers. It's actually one of the tenets of PCG's mission: to build regional recognition by helping to promote the farms, chefs, restaurants and purveyors in the area. Although in existence for two years now, PCG became a fully certified North Carolina 501C3 non-profit organization in January.

"I see [Back Porch Brunch] as more of a social opportunity to get to know the chefs a little better," Reid says. "I imagine a lot of people will circulate around the chefs they want to get to know."

One of those whom attendees will want to get to know better is Nick Kepp. He's the head chef and food services manager at First Presbyterian Church. Because his job is to feed the members of the Uptown congregation, including everyone from 5-year-olds to seniors, he's someone the public probably would not otherwise get a chance to meet and sample the work of.

"My approach to food, my style of food has been influenced by what I do here on a daily basis," says Kepp, who's worked at First Pres for the past two years. "There's a lot of fine dining chefs out there that are doing things that I respect and admire, and really want to do, but in my situation here, it would just be practically impossible."

Because of his wide range of eaters, Kepp says he aims for versatility in his menu offerings but tries "to do things as freshly and scratch-made as possible." For Back Porch Brunch, he's bringing a breakfast taco that utilizes local farm eggs, greens, Bosky Acres goat cheese and more.

"I'm trying to elevate it within what I know, but at the same time it's a very approachable item for anyone."

Another chef worth talking up, especially if you're a foodie, is Bleu Barn Bistro's Tara Diamante. Bleu Barn is a farm-to-food truck that strives to source all of its meat, dairy and produce from local farms.

Diamante is passionate about knowing where all of her ingredients come from. "So many people are using fake and premade products that are full of fillers and chemicals," she says. "I just really like to take what Mother Nature gives us, what our local community is giving us, and showcase it at that time."

For Back Porch Brunch, she and business partner Brenton Ebersold will be offering mini buttermilk biscuits with a local housemade strawberry preserve and organic mixed green salad.

"Strawberries are at the peak of their season right now, so I really wanted to showcase that," Diamante says. "And then my business partner, who's also going to be there, he does buttermilk biscuits. It's one of his specialities. We're doing a little bit of my farm-fresh thing and his Southern comfort food."

Fresh, local food by some of the area's best chefs, all the while supporting an organization striving to strengthen the food community? We'd put our names on a wait-list for that.

Why is brunch so popular?
“You can drink mimosas during the day, and it’s acceptable.”
— Bleu Barn Bistro’s Tara Diamante

“People want to have social time with friends. They want to spend the mid-afternoon, especially this time of year when it’s so nice outside, just enjoying good food and good company. I think it’s just a casual way to get together.”
— Piedmont Culinary Guild’s Executive Director Kris Reid

“For those who are young adults, maybe not in the family way quite yet, it’s a good way to release from the workweek and go out and enjoy something a little different long, all weekend long.”
— First Presbyterian Church’s Nick Kepp

Back Porch Brunch $35-$40. May 2, 12 p.m.-2 p.m. 2151 Hawkins St.
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