Many farms grow corn, and some farms grow the nutritious fruits and vegetables found at a farmers’ market, but one farm in particular became the seed of inspiration for the first ever “Chef’s and Farmers Summit” on February 24 at the Universities at Shady Grove. Susan Callahan, Chef Instructor at University of MD Eastern Shore, discovered during a visit at a local Montgomery farm the plight of a farmer who, unable to bring his harvest to market locally, was left with no other option but to transport his produce out of state. Dissatisfied with the lack of collaboration with our agricultural community, Susan decided to create a networking event where farmers and chefs could meet to build relationships, discuss business opportunities and address challenges.
Given free reign at the Marriott Teaching Kitchen at USG, a cohort of Rockville’s finest chefs were challenged to craft dishes from an array of farm-fresh fruits, vegetables and meats brought to the event by the participating farmers. The kitchen serves our students in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program and is fully equipped with gas ranges, ovens, cooking tools and an ample area to work in. The scene of chefs cutting, chopping, and dicing was straight out of an episode of the hit reality cooking show “Top Chef.” Finding a place to observe and take notes was futile, no sooner had I arrived I was put to task. “I need some vegetable stock!?” one of the chefs demanded. “I’m on it, Chef,” and like that I jumped into action. “Where are the peelers, can you bring me one?” one of our guest requested. “You have the wrong student,” I thought to myself, “but I will fetch you one.” Having no clue where to begin searching I luckily found another student to point me to the right place. I learned a lot about professional cooking that day, mostly how to be helpful and, more importantly, staying out of a chef’s way.
Towards the end of the cook off, while chefs were placing the final touches on their creations, I had the opportunity to interview our attendees and glean some insights on how the local food movement is changing the way food is being prepared and served in Montgomery county. Chef Jeff Eng of Clyde’s Tower Oak Lodge in Rockville describes his restaurant as a front-runner in incorporating locally grown produce in their menu. Through collaboration with their fresh produce purveyor, Keany Produce of Landover, MD, the message down the supply chain for more locally sourced produce has never been clearer and Keany continues to expand its network of local farmers to meet their demands.
At the source of our food supply we have companies like Liberty Delight Farms of Reisterstown, MD. Shane Hughes, owner and operator of 80 acres of pasture in Baltimore county, left a career in corporate finance in 2007 for the tough yet rewarding work of rearing livestock. His business in the niche market of all-natural, pasture-raised beef is riding on the surging demand for healthier and humanely raised animal protein. Their product can be found online on their website and at local farmers markets in Rockville and Bethesda during the summer. Shane has expanded his business in recent years and now proudly supplies organic beef to restaurants, caterers, retail markets and institutions in our community. On his farm you can find happy cows, chickens, pigs and regrettably for those who love the cuter variety of animals, even sheep and rabbits, which were an unexpected component in the dishes prepared for this extraordinary luncheon.
Discover more about our chefs, farmers and retail partners below. Just click on the link!
- Steve Deffinbaugh, Nantucket’s Reef
- Jeff Eng, Clyde’s
- Germain Haro, Marriott North Bethesda
- Joe Hospital, Dogfish Head Alehouse
- Steve Mannino, Chef Geoff’s
- Tony Marciante, Chef Tony’s
- Nick Palmeri, Old Anglers Inn
- Gary Rehaut, Bon Appetit Catering
- James Riccutti, Riccutti’s (Olney)
- Sterling Smith, Sodexo Corp/G Burg
- Ype Von Hengst, Silver Diner
- Tim Walker, Marriott Bethesda
- Elise Welland, Comus Inn
- Rachel Armistead, Sweet Kraut Farms
- Courtney Buchholtz, From the Earth Foods
- Mary Fendrick, Woodbourne Creamery
- David Heisler, Comus Market
- Shane Hughes, Liberty Delight
- Linda Lewis, Lewis’ Orchards
- Mark Mills, Chocolates & Tomatoes Farm