Presenting a main dish and two sides cooked on the fly with whatever ingredients are available at the Boalsburg Farmers’ Market could be enough to give local chefs indigestion.
But nine culinary experts will do just that on Aug. 6, when the market holds its third annual Golden Basket Award event. The contest is part of Centre County’s Local Foods Week, which culminates with the county Farm Tour on Aug. 10.
Tony Sapia, of Gemelli Bakers in State College, a market co-manager, cooked up the competition idea and said it’s a way to showcase local produce and local chefs.
“I’m anticipating this year to be even bigger and better,” Sapia said. “It gives a chance for the chefs to step out of their comfort zone. It gives them the opportunity to just really go out on the edge. You see some of the best food when a person’s out on the edge.”
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Participating chefs are Mark Johnson, of Elk Creek Café and Aleworks; Jamie Steffen, of the Nittany Lion Inn; Craig Hamilton, of The Village at Penn State; Sean Kelly, of Kelly’s Steak and Seafood; Zach Lorber, of Penn State Altoona; Steve Spanelli, of Otto’s; Lisa Palermo, of Carnegie House; Gus Aranguiz, of American Ale House; and a chef from Sichuan Bistro.
Starting at 2 p.m. when the market opens, the chefs will choose their ingredients and start cooking at stations set up in the middle of the market space, in the parking lot of the Pennsylvania Military Museum.
The event ends at 4 p.m. when the dishes will be judged for best salad, best side dish, best main dish and best overall submission. The latter wins the Golden Basket Award, a trophy and a year of bragging rights.
“You have nine totally different foods,” Sapia said. “It’s really nice to see the creative process.”
The judges picked to enjoy the potentially sweet, salty and savory submissions are State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham; Kevin Kassab, of the borough Public Health Department; Director of Penn State’s Center for Food Innovation Pete Bordi; local food columnist Michele Marchetti and WPSU Local Food Journey editor Jamie Oberdick.
“I get to try food from top chefs in the area,” said Oberdick, a first-time judge. “How can I argue with that?”
Oberdick, who plans to write about the experience for Local Food Journey, said he’s excited because the event continues the trend of local restaurants using local ingredients. He also likes to cook and hopes to pick up some tips.
“When you have local chefs preparing things like this that are unique and different, it can spark ideas for people,” he said. “I really encourage people to come out. Going to a farmers market is almost like going and uncovering hidden treasures.”