Sacramento works farm-to-fork angle during Amgen

Owner/chef Michael Thiemann of Mother and Empress restaurants rose at 3:30 a.m. to start smoking this pig, which took six hours over mesquite wood.
Owner/chef Michael Thiemann of Mother and Empress restaurants rose at 3:30 a.m. to start smoking this pig, which took six hours over mesquite wood. Bee staff

The Amgen Tour of California is billed as the most important professional bike race in the U.S. But it’s also a chance to tell the story of California and sell it to the rest of the country and much of the world.

Yes, it’s a major marketing opportunity. That’s why many cities compete to host a piece of the race. To get a start/finish, as Sacramento did Sunday, is considered a major coup and shows that race organizers have confidence that Sacramento will show well on TV and that people will turn out en masse to support the race.

With Sacramento’s branding as “America’s Farm to Fork Capital” gaining credibility in the past few years, I wondered how the city sought to position itself for the big bike race, which is being televised to 18 million people in 200 countries and territories.

Roaming the grounds near the Capitol on Friday for the public team presentation, it was clear that the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau was working the farm-to-fork angle. On Sunday, that became clearer with the presence of Michael Thiemann and Matt Masera, the team behind Mother and soon-to-open Empress. The two were roasting a pig on a spit, along with chicken and sausages from Morant’s on Franklin Boulevard.

With the success of Mother and all the buzz about Empress, owner/chef Thiemann has become known as a leader in the farm-to-fork movement, along with chefs such as Oliver Ridgeway of Grange, Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney’s B&L, Ed Roehr of Magpie and Randall Selland and company of Selland Family Restaurants (The Kitchen, Ella and Selland’s Market-Cafe).

18 million number of people who will watch the Amgen Tour of California, which kicked off in Sacramento.

Landing Thiemann as the caterer in the VIP tent on Sunday was no accident. And it was clear that Sacramento was hammering home the message. The race announcers on NBCSN mentioned Sacramento and farm-to-fork during the live broadcast.

“When you step back and think about us buying that type of advertising or marketing, there’s no way we could afford it,” said Mike Testa, chief operating officer of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau. “To be able to get that message out to 18 million people is huge. And to have the people in the VIP tent exposed to what Thiemann created there adds substance and credibility to our message.”

Testa noted that despite initial detractors, the farm-to-fork campaign has flourished. He noted that the Wall Street Journal recently named Sacramento to a list of the best small and mid-sized food cities.

“That kind of thing didn’t happen before this campaign,” Testa said.

Blair Anthony Robertson: (916) 321-1099, @Blarob

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