Celebrity Chef Cookoff
● By Sue Ralston
Taster's ChoiceSeptember 2013
By Sue Ralston
Photos: Sarah Hartley
On the last Saturday in September, three ambitious chefs will arrive at the Redding Farmers Market, knives sharpened, aprons on and competitive spirits fully engaged, competing to see who can do the best job cooking with three surprise ingredients, revealed to them moments before the Chef at the Market Cookoff competition begins.
This is the third year that chefs who are part of the Chef at the Market series will be participating in the cookoff. Wes Matthews of Market Street Steakhouse and
Señor Rosa’s is ready. “I love cooking at the market and I love competition. I love working with food, especially showing others my ideas,” he says.
After the secret ingredients are unveiled, the chefs have 30 minutes to shop at the farmers market for the rest of the necessities for their creations. They have a little more than an hour to come up with a recipe that wins the judges over. Each chef will be judged on three criteria: presentation, use of secret ingredients and taste. Audience members will be given samples. The winner gets a trophy and another prize, yet to be revealed.
Matthews will compete against two other chefs: Roque Carbajal from Sweetie’s Catering and Café and James Leedy from the Shasta Union High School District. Celebrity judges include Redding Mayor Rick Bosetti, Jennifer Scarborough of KRCR Channel 7 News and Michelle Rogers, content editor at the Record Searchlight. Rogers, who is new to Redding, looks forward to judging. “This is my first community event and I’m really excited to get involved,” she says. Scarborough, who will be judging for the third year, is equally enthusiastic. “It’s a little like watching an episode of Top Chef. They all make delicious little dishes and the judges get treated to a beautiful presentation with nice dishes and silverware,” she says. “Like many people, I love to cook and I go to the Farmers Market, but I don’t always have specific ideas for what I buy. This is a great inspiration for that.”
Chef at the Market is put on by the Shasta Growers Association with substantial support from Healthy Shasta. The weekly live cooking demonstrations bring together talented chefs, locally grown food and shoppers to emphasize the benefits of using fresh, local fruits and vegetables to prepare meals. Chefs use seasonal ingredients available at that week’s market to introduce market-goers to the idea of nutritious cooking. Chef at the Market also shines a spotlight on the benefits of supporting local farmers, local agriculture and the chefs and restaurateurs themselves.
This is the fifth year of Chef at the Market, and Jen Miller, a member of the Shasta Growers Association and owner of Measures of Joy Gluten Free Bakery, is coordinating the series this summer. “Healthy Shasta is a very big sponsor of the program and helped buy the trailer we needed to transport everything to the market. What we provide for the chefs is a portable kitchen: a tent, gas stoves, tables, chairs and a hand-washing station,” she says. The chefs bring in their own knives and specialty tools. They also provide signage, advertising and print the recipes to hand out when possible.
Miller and other members of the Shasta Growers Association have been pleased with the response to Chef at the Market. “We’re benefiting the community, promoting healthy eating and cooking at home, and promoting the chefs themselves. We share their bio, let them talk about their restaurant or business.” One chef raffled off a new spice rub he was developing after using it to grill vegetables. “I feel like it just checks off so many of those boxes of incorporating more than one purpose. It connects it all; it’s just another facet of promoting community. That’s what appealed to me about coordinating the program,” says Miller.
The Redding Saturday Market changed locations this year, as the parking lot west of City Hall is now the site of construction for the new police headquarters. Vendors now set up in the parking lot behind City Hall, which offers more space, trees and shade. The new location has been popular with market-goers and vendors alike. “People can spend a little more time, sit on the grass and sit at the picnic tables. It just feels better – now there’s a place to have community. It feels more like an open-air Farmers Market, and it’s more of a family affair now. Kids come and Healthy Shasta does activities for them. Most of us are much happier and like how the city is partnering with us.”
Celebrity Chef Cook-off, Sept. 27, 9-11 am
Saturday Redding Farmers Market, parking lot behind City Hall on Parkview Drive
7:30 am – noon Saturdays through Dec. 20