Taking a look Inside the Box at Armature Works

I have long heard of Inside the Box, but never actually been to the cafe before. I reached out to Inside the Box when they opened at Armature Works in Tampa Heights to get the story behind this unique project.

I met up for a few hours with their PR representative and Executive Chef Clifford Barsi walked me through their operation. Inside the Box is a social enterprise that generates funds to help fund Metropolian Ministries. 100% of the profits from the deli go back to the charity.

Chef Clifford Barsi spearheaded social enterprises for Metropolitan Ministries after volunteering there and realizing he wanted to help combine culinary with helping people get back on their feet.

Attacking Poverty Using Culinary Arts Training

Inside the Box primarily employees people who need work that have trained under their Culinary Arts program for their cafe and also helps those in need get employment and training at some of Tampa’s busiest restaurants including Mise En Place, Boca, Bizou Brassie, and Oxford Exchange.

The goal? To help those in need get higher paying jobs by giving them desirable skills that are needed in kitchens. Poverty often exists because people don’t have access to training and Metropolitan Ministries is working to change that.

The cost of living in Tampa has been climbing at a rapid pace although recently slowing behind the national average (sometimes 15% increases in rent prices year over year in the mid 2010s) since major investment projects around the bay began and programs like this will be needed more as people need better paying jobs to afford living in our city.

Metropolitan Ministries takes a look at what skills restaurants need from potential employees and seeks to teach these skills to their trainees. Some skills include how to be a prep cooks, advanced knife skills, how to clean a fryer/change oil, and knowledge of different essential foods. Trainees are placed in busy restaurants to build these skills that will ideally lead them to a career and financial stability.

Classes are small with only 8-10 students and is offered each quarter of the year. The course is 16-weeks. Each student is funded on a full scholarship. Only those in need qualify. Each culinary arts program features:

  • 150 hours of culinary classes
  • 20 hours for a Food Handling Certification Course
  • 100 hours of High Volume Production experience
  • 100 hours of Cafeteria experience
  • 100 hours of Restaurant experience
  • 40 hours for a Life and Employment Skills Course.

One particular skill that Chef Clifford Barsi highlighted was the importance of learning how to take a recipe and multiply or divide it. Consistency is key when restaurants are trying to create customer retention and this kind of skill is often missed in cooking programs.

None of this would possible without volunteers, donors, fundraisers, and these new social enterprises that are helping to fund these programs.

More info about their social enterprises: http://www.metromin.org/about/social-enterprise.html

Inside the Box Cafe Recommendations 

Inside the Box serves gourmet deli meat daily at Armature Works and also serves some delicious sandwiches. The price point matches the other vendors in the building at around $10-$12.

To me the best deal from the Inside the Box Armature Works stand is the deli meat which is sold at prices similar to popular Boar’s Head deli cuts, but will instead help fund a cause that aims to change and improve people’s lives.

As far as sandwiches are concerned – I tried a smoked lamb sandwich during my visit and it was absolutely delicious. During the soft opening for Armature Works I also tried a delicious turkey sandwich. The bread and cuts are certainly gourmet.

Some menu items include Smoked Salmon, Roast Porchetta, NY Strip Pastrami, and NY Strip Corned Beef. Sandwiches are steamed to keep them moist and warm when served with cheese. Plenty of sides are available to enjoy with your food.

Chef Clifford Barsi tells me that Inside the Box tries to source locally in Florida when possible, but as the Tampa Bay Times has highlighted before, that can be a challenge in Florida. You’ll find some Florida cheeses and cuts around the deli when in season.

Inside the Box also has a local market on the side where you can find lots of local produce, vegetables, coffee, and culinary goods as well as fresh bread from popular local vendors from around Tampa Bay and Florida including Piquant, Urban Canning Company, Sunset Salsa, Le’Anns Cheesecakes, and more. I’m hoping this market expands because I would like to see more things like this in our food halls.

Annual Fundraisers

You can help support the mission to end homelessness and poverty by supporting some key annual fundraisers put on by Metropolitan Ministries – although they are also always in need of volunteers to come help them get things done at the non-profit.

Metropolitan Ministries is a 4-star out of 4-star charity according to Charity Navigator.

Tampa Bay Food Fight is annual competition that Metropolitan Ministries organizes between chefs from both sides of the Howard Franklin Bridge. Proceeds from the event go back to supporting the charity.

Their Bridge Builders luncheon is coming up on Wednesday, April 25th, 2018 at Hilton Hotel Downtown and WWE SuperStar Titus O’Neil is the keynote speaker this year. There are plenty of ways to get involved.

You can donate to Metropolitan Ministries directly here: http://secure.metromin.org/site/SPageNavigator/donate.html


3rd Annual Putts & Pints fundraiser this Saturday

Brew Bus Brewing will host their 3rd Annual Putts & Pints fundraiser this Saturday, September 30th, from 11AM-4PM.

The brewery will be transformed for a day into a 9-hole mini golf course to raise money for charity. Proceeds will benefit the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to funding research to eliminate childhood cancer.

Music will be played in-house by a DJ for the brewery and a live musician will be at 10th hole.

The 1st place winner at the fundraiser will win a trophy. Awards will also be given to the best dressed team.

Brew Bus has also partnered with Cigar City Brewing to brew a Gooseberry & Grapefruit IPA for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The craft beer will be sold at Brew Bus on draft or in six-packs as well as at Cigar City and select locations around town.

Tickets range from $10-$15 per person and can be purchased online.

Buy tickets: http://puttsandpints2017.eventbrite.com/

A full lunch menu will also be available including Mojo Roasted Pork Butt, BBQ Spiced Smoked Chicken, Mac & Cheese, Bacon Jalapeno Corn Bread, Baked Beans, Coleslaw, and a vegetarian option by request.

The event is sponsored by USAmeriBankPeople InclivingHRCheney BrosFreedman’s Office FurnitureAdver-T Screen Printing & EmbroideryCommercial Products, McMery Roofing, McMullen Air Conditioning & Refrigeration, Keg Craft, Air GasVologyRP&G PrintingThe RIPITT FoundationShea Barclay GroupCreative LoafingJ.J. Taylor Distributing and Gray Robinson Attorneys at Law.


Event name: 3rd Annual Putts & Pints

Neighborhood: Seminole Heights

Date & Time: Saturday, September 30th, 2017, 11AM-4PM

Cost: $10-$15

Address: 4101 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33603

Buy tickets: http://puttsandpints2017.eventbrite.com/

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/190145294844781/

Cigar City Tap Talks: Invasion Pale Ale

Photo credit for the Featured Image goes to http://www.tampapix.com.

Yesterday I visited Cigar City Brewing for Tap Talk: Invasion Pale Ale.

The Tap Talks are part of a series about the history of different beers and the City of Tampa and feature curator Rodney-Kite Powell and Cigar City’s El Lector, Neil Callaghan. Proceeds from the event benefit the Tampa Bay History Center which is located in Downtown Tampa on the Tampa Riverwalk.

The event was sold out.

We learned quite a bit about Gasparilla Pirate Festival which has been a tradition in the City of Tampa since 1904.

Cigar City created the Invasion Pale Ale for Gasparilla and wanted to make a drink that was enjoyable, but not too alcoholic for the crowd to handle while at the parade. Cigar City describes it as a “citrusy, tropical and low-alcohol session beer “.

There were many interesting things we learned about Gasparilla, such as the busy life that once existed on Franklin Street, which was decorated for Gasparilla in historical times and also that there was once a trolley on Bayshore Boulevard.

We also learned about Ye Mystic Krewe, which is the original Krewe of Gasparilla, and maintained status as the only one for decades. One of the oldest pirate flags photographed in Tampa is pictured above. Find our more about Ye Mystic Krewe at http://ymkg.com/history/.

Joe Gaspar is actually a myth according to the Tampa Bay History Center and no proof can be found that he existed. Gasparilla was originally created as an event to create tourism for Tampa and to draw people to see how nice the weather was and how they could make a living here.

The popularity has never ended and thousands still head to Tampa every year for a pirate celebration like no other. I am still looking forward to going on a pirate ship in the water during the event one day.

We finished with a rare beer made with Invasion Pale Ale and adding Orange Peel and White Oak flavors called “Lue Gim Gong” after the famous Chinese-American horticulturalist.

He was known as the “The Citrus Wizard” and inherited an orange grove that he successfully made into the foundation of the citrus industry here in Florida. The beer is available now at Cigar City Brewing, but may not be easily accessible outside of the brewery.

You can donate to the Tampa Bay History Center at http://tampabayhistorycenter.org/donate/. Donations support “education programs and exhibitions” and allows them make a “collection of more than 1,000 artifacts and documents”.


Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach’s Ocean Hai Supports Local Charities

The next time you dine at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach‘s Ocean Hai restaurant, sit at table #31 to support Pinellas County local charities.

Bamboo + 💚 #werklife #bcvsocial #foodstyling #bcvtravels

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The program “You Dine, We Donate” will select a new local charity every month to feature and donates all net proceeds from food and non-alcoholic beverage purchases at the assigned table to a cause. Here is the upcoming list:

  • April: Autism Awareness Month – Tampa Bay Chapter
  • May: Troop Rewards
  • June: Pinellas County Lifeguards
  • July: Clearwater Marine Aquarium
  • August: Pinellas County Schools
  • September: Eckerd Kids
  • October: Hooked on Hope
  • November: Clearwater for Youth
  • December: Arts for Life

Not a bad view for lunch!

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Ocean Hai is the signature restaurant at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach serving Asian-fusion cuisine with inspirations from Asian countries such as Japan, Thailand, and China.

Chef de Cuisine John Capponi previously worked at Tampa’s On Swann in Hyde Park Village as Executive Chef and as Executive Sous Chef at Skytop Lounge in Pennsylvania.

The Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach is located at 100 Coronado Drive and is ocean-front. Clearwater Beach was recently named #4 on the 2017 “Top 10 Traveler’s Choice Beaches in the United States” by TripAdvisor.

Visit Ocean Hai online to book a reservation at http://www.wyndhamgrandclearwater.com/dining/ocean-hai

Help Japan During This Crisis.

It’s no secret that Japanese cuisine is one of my favorites and I love Japan and Japanese culture in general. In case you haven’t been keeping up with the news, Japan was struck by a 8.9 earthquake this past Friday (the 5th largest earthquake in recorded history). This earthquake created a deadly tsunami that wreaked havoc on Japan. According to Japanese media, 2,000 bodies washed up in Miyagi and several thousands of people are missing and the Japanese government fears that an estimated 10,000 people or more are dead. Japan’s stocks have fallen 6% since the crisis. To make matters worse, many nuclear reactors have become unstable in Japan and two of them have exploded injuring workers and creating fears about radiation in Japan and talks of a possible radiation cloud threat to the Pacific.

You can follow the latest news about Japan on BBC at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12307698

After reading the La Times Daily Dish Blog, I was motivated to also spread the word about aid in Japan. I’ll quote them and say “If you know of any fundraisers, bake sales or anything else that might be occurring within the food community to help the people of Japan, please let me know about it so we can share the information. It doesn’t matter how big, or how small, this effort is. People are looking for a way to help”. I totally wholeheartedly agree. Please let me know of any efforts to help Japan and I’ll do my best to pass the message on.

Leave a comment here on this post, send me a reply on twitter, leave a post on Facebook, or e-mail me at carloseats [at] gmail.com and I’ll try and spread the word.

If you’re living in the USA you can text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 for Japan earthquake and Pacific Tsunami or visit this link.

Together we can make a difference in other peoples lives.