A Caramelized Conversation with Margot McNeeley


To change the way chefs think about their food and container waste is one thing. But to change the way the city of Memphis thinks about green eating and environmental sustainability is a far greater challenge that proves to continuously succeed every single day, thanks to Margot McNeeley. Since the 2008 inception of Project Green Fork, a well-known nonprofit in town, millions (and I'm not exaggerating) of gallons of plastic, glass and aluminum have been recycled by certified restaurants. I sat down with Margot at Otherland's Coffee Bar in the heart of Midtown (a PGF-certified spot), where we instantly clicked over our passion for good food and good attitudes in our city. Join us in our Caramelized Conversation and read about the exciting upcoming anniversary event in October. . . pgf-staff-520x301

Why did you start Project Green Fork?

My husband and I like to eat out. I began to notice the lack of recycling at some of our favorite restaurants, and I could not stop asking myself, "why?!" Then, there's that turning point where you begin to get sick of hearing yourself complain, so you must either shut up or do something about it. You know what I'm talking about? Well, I decided to do something about it.

How many restaurants participate?

Since starting Project Green Fork, we have totaled 72 certified restaurants (although some are no longer open). Tsunami in Midtown was our first; and when the Memphis Flyer heard the news and wrote a story, we received more and more interest. I'm not one to knock down doors asking for participation. I work with restaurants who see and are ready to experience the benefits of signing on with Project Green Fork and completing the six steps of certification.

What do you love most about Memphis?

When I moved to Memphis 23 years ago, people didn't go downtown. But clearly, people aren't willing to settle. Things happen constantly, and the community is not sitting back. These people, both tough and creative, want to help the city be great. The Brewery is a great example. There is so much potential in this place, and we are consistently finding it.

12479 image via memphis daily news

What are your thoughts on being an entrepreneur?

While it's hard to get it all done alone, seeing the results make the hard work and running around town worthwhile. People now tell me they decide where to eat based on the Project Green Fork restaurant list. For that reason alone, the payback is there!

Your most unforgettable restaurant experience?

On the coast of Italy. My husband and I encountered a shack on the beach where you order whatever is there that day. The man placed the ingredients in a basket and trolleyed it up to the kitchen. Ten minutes later, a meal came back down the trolley with the most delicate handmade pasta and seafood so fresh, the cook must have put his hand in the ocean and pulled out the newest catch just for us. Unbelievable.

Can you name a favorite Memphis restaurant?

Of course not. But since I am vegan, I have found Memphis restaurants to be very receptive if I call ahead of time and request a vegan dish the following night. I've never been told no. So, for all of you who complain Memphis does not cater to vegans -- you're just not asking!

Loving Local 2014 poster

So what's this October 4 event?

Our fifth annual fundraiser, "Loving Local," is coming up this October 4 from 6-9 p.m. The Malco Summer 4 Drive-in Theater is hosting the event with games, mini golf, an auction, movie showings, a set from Impala band, and movie-theater snacks taken up a notch. SOB popcorn, Fuel Cafe vegan nachos, Roaring Tiger vodka slushies with Cosmic Coconut, Relevant Roasters coffee. . .The list goes on. We're providing the best of entertainment in hopes that people will put their phones down, pick up food, a drink, or a golf club, and simply interact!

How do I buy my ticket?

Purchase your tickets online; and in the meantime, follow me on Instagram to see a daily auction item sneak peek!

featured image via this is memphis