By Steve Kaufman


The Crase family, originally from Somerset, KY, has long been known for both food and philanthropy. For three generations, they’ve owned Hall’s on the River, a local eatery that has virtually become a Kentucky tradition, where families gather for southern comfort food and football games. They’re also the makers of a near-legendary line of beer cheeses, originally served at the restaurant and now sold in supermarkets across the country.

But they have also made the good of their community their work. Dr. Jim Crase, chief of staff at Somerset Memorial Hospital and a former Kentucky State Senator, was active in donating his time and money to improve healthcare and health education in Pulaski County. Jan Crase was one of the founders of Lake Cumberland Performing Arts.Both were alumni and supporters of Berea College and served on the school’s board of directors. Jan Crase passed away in 2010, Jim in 2016.

“They believed in the idea that ‘to whom much is given, from whom much is expected,’” explained their son, Karl. So Karl and his sisters, Kit Crase and Kim Claytor, have set up the Crase Family Foundation to carry on their late parents’ philanthropic legacy.

“The original intent of the Foundation will be to focus on improving medical care and medical education in Pulaski County, the same interest my father had while practicing medicine there for 50 years,” said Karl. “Another focus will be education and the arts, my mother’s passion.” To that end, there will be educational scholarships and endowments to colleges, universities and trade schools.

Karl is also president of the Crase Family Companies, and he’s spearheading more positive developments there as well. There is a microfoodery in development that will produce specialty foods with an emphasis on sustainability, organic ingredients and nutrition. The microfoodery, based in economically depressed Rockcastle, KY, will also provide several hundred jobs in an area devastated by abandoned factories.

Part of the Foundation’s interest will be in culinary education. “A lot of our philanthropic work is related to the Kentucky Restaurant Association Education Foundation,” said Karle, who is on the National Restaurant Association board.

Even before the Foundation was set up, Crase Family Cos. was a big supporter of Habitat for Humanities International. Through those efforts, Crase met celebrity chef Roshara Sanders, a military veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan deployments who attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, on the GI Bill after her service ended. Sanders went on to win a Food Network competition, Chopped: Military Vets and in 2016, was named one of NBC’s “Top Under 28 Black Entrepreneurs”.

She says the minute she met Crase at a Habitat event in South Carolina, she was hooked by his devotion to that cause. It turns out she was raised in a Habitat home in Bridgeport, CT.

Not only was she intrigued by Karl’s support of philanthropy, but also by microfoodery’s intention to be environmentally friendly and sustainable. Sanders will partner with the Crase Companies, developing a line of products for the microfoodery. “My passion,” she said, “is food that is farm-to-table: organic, fresh, fun, nutritious and economically friendly.”

In November, Crase held a special event in his restaurant to introduce Sanders and announce their new partnership. “I was amazed by Karl,” Sanders explained. “He has his own herbs and spices growing outside his restaurant, he respects ecology and the environment, and he gives back to the community. If I ever have my own restaurant, that’s what I want to do.”

Crase explained that the initial output of the new microfoodery will be dips and spreads, cheese balls and cheese logs. “But Chef Ro has a license to develop other products for us. She stands for what we stand for and had carte blanch.”