It was a battle royale. This past Monday at the Pioneer Courthouse Square Market, Anthony Cafiero from Tabla, Cathy Whims from Nostrana and Jason French from Ned Ludd went toque to toque, vying for the Master of the Market crown during the COUNTRY Chef Challenge.
The chefs had thirty minutes to shop the market for fresh, local ingredients, then another thirty minutes to prepare a market-inspired dish.
Anthony Cafiero, who stayed true to his Mediterranean roots, loaded up his market basket with late summer faves like corn, zucchini and sweet sun gold tomatoes, and turned out a savory buckwheat crepe filled with smoked cheese, resting on a pool of vibrant corn puree and a colorful sautée of vegetables studded with spicy chorizo.
Jason French, who was also inspired by the embarrassment of riches available at the market, created a dynamic salad and bruschetta duo. The salad starred lemon cucumbers, peaches, tomatoes and dill and was flanked by a market bruschetta topped with farmstead cheese and showered with a medley of slivered romano beans, baby eggplant and everyone’s favorite bite-sized Spanish pepper, the Padrón.
Queen of Italian cuisine, Cathy Whims, somehow managed to rock out amazing strands of gossamer thin fettuccine in her thirty minutes on stage, tossing it with sautéed baby zucchini, slivers of salami, fresh squash blossoms and farm-fresh egg yolks, all dusted with generous shavings of market cheese for a silky, seasonal take on pasta carbonara.
With all this culinary magic happening, it wasn’t easy to be a judge, but Inessa from KINK.fm, David McIntyre from The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Portland and Danielle Centoni from MIX Magazine were up for the challenge.
After tasting and judging each dish on a variety of criteria including creativity, taste and adaptability to the home cook, a winner emerged.
Congratulations, Jason! Thank you to all three chefs, who are not only superstars in the kitchen but in our eyes as well. Each of them has serious FOM (Friend of the Market) status and all are committed to supporting local farmers and using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients in their restaurants. Bravo!
A special thank you goes out to our celebrity judges and emcee Drew Carney of KGW, who not only kept the crowd on the edge of their seats, but also taught us that the average strawberry contains 200 seeds.
For more photos and copies of the recipes, visit www.countrychefchallenge.com.