September 24, 2020
Kanika Tomalin has a lot on her plate. She works under St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman as deputy mayor and city administrator, serving the city’s 270,000 residents. On top of that, Tomalin recently published a cookbook.
“Before I worked in City Hall, I was a healthcare executive with Bayfront here in St. Pete,” Tomalin explains. In her role at the mayor’s office, she launched Healthy St. Pete, a program designed to build a citywide culture of health. “We’re trying to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” Tomalin says.
As an extension of this initiative, the cookbook was born.
St. Pete Eats: A Cookbook was published in July 2020. It’s a collection of healthy recipes from some of the city’s best-known chefs. Some recipes put a healthy twist on existing menu items; others were created just for the cookbook.
One standout is a citrusy shrimp recipe from the Floribbean, which Tomalin has nicknamed a “sunshine dish.”
“Aesthetically, all of the senses are really represented. It smells so good when you cook it, it looks so pretty, and it tastes amazing,” she says.
The cookbook also includes a vegetarian chili from the menu of The Library. And the Tavern at Bayboro’sAdventurer Grouper Sandwich pays tribute to Tomalin’s late husband, Terry Tomalin, who for years wrote a popular outdoors column for the Tampa Bay Times.
“They included that recipe for us, which is a huge gift,” she says.
The cookbook also features a few recipes from Tomalin’s own kitchen, including her chicken salad made with Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise.
Proceeds from cookbook sales benefit the featured restaurants and St. Petersburg’s Fighting Chance Fund for COVID-19 relief. But the impact of restaurants goes far beyond economics, Tomalin says.
“A community is just a big quilt, I believe, with many threads and multidimensional fabric that weaves it all together. Restaurants sit right at the center of that, because it’s a source of great social capital and tradition and convening. It’s a place that people go to celebrate or mourn or be together, so restaurants become extensions of our families and symbols and illustrations of our most critical and amazing moments in life. So we need our restaurants as a part of our culture,” Tomalin says. “It’s also one of the most apparent ways that people are able to find and infuse diversity in their lives in meaningful ways. We are so proud that in St. Pete, we have restaurants from across the world stage.”
For a list of restaurants featured in St. Pete Eats and retail locations where you can purchase the cookbook, visit stpeteeats.org.
Explore The Zest
Host: Dalia Colón
Producer: Dalia Colón & Robin Sussingham
Photo Credits: Dalia Colón