A special free event, open to the public, will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 15, at the Hill-Stead Farmers’ Market in Farmington to help get the week started. WNPR’s Chion Wolf will serve as the master of ceremonies and will introduce demonstrations by the following chefs:
- Ken Scalzo, Sodexo at the University of Bridgeport
- Jim Wishneski, Tisane Euro-Asian Cafe
- Jeff Crawford and Van Hurd, Jordan Caterers
- Drew McLachlan, Whole Foods Market
Each demonstration will feature fresh Connecticut Grown ingredients provided that day by vendors at the farmers’ market. Samples will be offered to attendees while supplies last.
To increase awareness and spread the word, Governor Dannel P. Malloy met with Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky and Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra on Friday at the Old State House Farmers’ Market to talk with chefs and staff from three downtown restaurants participating in Farm-to-Chef Week. State Representatives Matt Ritter and Angel Arce, representing Assembly Districts 1 and 4, joined them.
Executive Chef Jeffrey Lizotte from Restaurant On20, Executive Chef Hunter Morton from Max Downtown, and Chef Erigels Kroi and General Manager Ermal Caushi from Peppercorn’s Grill walked the market and picked out items that inspired them to create special Farm-to-Chef dishes. Among their selections were fresh Connecticut Grown carrots, kale, tomatoes, green beans, peaches, and plums.
After the chefs spoke about their choices and suggested ideas for preparing the different ingredients, Governor Malloy shared his own favorite recipes, noting how much he loves visiting farmers’ markets and cooking with fresh Connecticut Grown products.
While Farm-to-Chef Week is a special time each year to celebrate the state’s farm bounty at the peak of harvest season, many of the participating chefs and venues use Connecticut Grown ingredients on a regular basis. That is the case with both those who met with Governor Malloy in Hartford on Friday and with the chefs who will be performing demonstrations on Sunday in Farmington.
“First and foremost, I’d like to thank the farmers who work so hard every day to produce these beautiful fruits and vegetables,” said Chef Lizotte, as he displayed the produce he had selected at the Old State House Farmers’ Market. “When you start with ingredients this fresh and of this quality, it makes our jobs as chefs not only that much easier, but that much more enjoyable.”
“I’ve worked in top restaurants all over the country, but I’ve found some of the best products at farms right here in Connecticut,” added Chef Morton.
Farm-to-Chef Week was started in 2010 by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture as part of its Farm-to-Chef Program. According to Commissioner Reviczky, it is a way for culinary professionals to tap into their creativity. It also provides an opportunity for residents and visitors to learn more about the vast array of items grown and raised in Connecticut and to enjoy some of those items prepared in new and unusual ways.
“With so many types of foodservice venues participating, there are choices for every taste and budget,” he said. “Vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians, and carnivores alike all have a multitude of options during Farm-to-Chef Week, whether they want a formal, multi-course dinner or a quick lunch on the go. The variety is one of the things that makes this week-long event special.”
While the popular restaurant-week concept often follows a fixed-price, dinner-menu structure, Farm-to-Chef Week’s guidelines encourage diversity and creativity in menu development.
Participants must offer a minimum of four items, with each featuring one or more Connecticut Grown items. Venues that normally serve alcohol must also offer at least one Connecticut wine. Beyond that, the menu is limited only by the chef’s imagination.
The result is a plethora of offerings ranging from traditional fare such as stews, soups, burgers, sandwiches, and salads, to more unusual dishes such as the ice cream flavors and chocolate confections made with Connecticut Grown fruits and herbs that were featured in previous years. This year’s menus can be accessed via links from the list of participants posted at www.CTFarmtoChef.com.
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture launched the Farm-to-Chef Program in 2006 to help connect foodservice professionals with Connecticut Grown farm products. There is no cost to either farmers or chefs to join.
The agency has conducted a variety of farm tours, meetings and conferences, trade shows, and other activities as part of the program to help foster relationships between farmers and chefs. The program has received widespread acclaim from both participants and observers, and has served as a model for programs in other states.
Over the past six years, the Farm-to-Chef Program has grown significantly—primarily by word of mouth--and adjusted its programming to better serve members, based on input from all involved.
As the Governor’s Council for Agricultural Development has worked these past 18 months on developing a holistic strategic plan for Connecticut agriculture, it has prioritized the strengthening of farm-to-institution pathways. As a result, the Farm-to-Chef Program is looking to the council for additional stakeholder input and guidance to further shape and enhance its offerings.
This year, the council dedicated three working groups to the study and growth of farm-to-institution channels. One focuses on public schools (grades K-12) and state institutions, while another concentrates on private K-12 schools, higher education, corporate, and healthcare facilities. The third centers on restaurants. All three are investigating the challenges of using more Connecticut Grown farm products in these institutions and seeking ways to overcome those challenges.
In addition, several of the council’s other working groups, such as those focused on infrastructure, food security, and marketing, are exploring issues that overlap with those faced by the three farm-to-institution groups, including aggregation, distribution, food safety certifications, and more.
As the council develops strategies to increase the percentage of consumer dollars spent on Connecticut Grown fresh produce and farm products, as per its statutory charge, the Farm-to-Chef Program will continue to adjust and enhance its programming to implement those strategies.
The end result will be additional demand and diversified markets for Connecticut’s farms, along with more abundant Connecticut Grown food and farm products in the state’s institutional cafeterias, dining halls, healthcare facilities, restaurants, and public landscapes.
For more information about Farm-to-Chef Week, please visit www.CTFarmtoChef.com. For more information about the Farm-to-Chef Program, go to www.CTGrown.gov/FarmtoChef. To learn more about the Governor’s Council for Agricultural Development, please see www.CTGrown.gov/GovernorsCouncil.com.