Westport, CT – On any given Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm, you will find well over a dozen of Connecticut’s finest chefs shopping from farmers, bread makers, dessert purveyors, and others at the Westport Farmers’ Market. For many of these chefs, the Thursday market provides inspiration for the evening’s menu – a day they are able to unleash their creativity using what is in season that very moment.
Take Emily Mingrove, chef and co-owner of the newly opened Tavern on State in New Haven, for example. A regular shopper at the farmers’ market, Emily says “there are so many things I love about the Westport Farmers’ Market – primarily that you know who is growing your food. Seeing what looks beautiful on any given day helps me dictate the menu rather than the other way around. It’s exciting.”
Chef Dan Kardos of Liberty Rock Tavern, Oar & Oak, and Don Bronco similarly likes the novelty of what is available from farmers each week. “It’s really cool and exciting to come to the market and see new products every week,” he said. “It gives me the chance to be surprised and be inspired by what is growing. What the farmers provide is how we run our menu.”
Both chefs represent a cadre of others who not only shop at the market, but also participate in the area’s only Chef of the Market Competition. “The WFM Chef of the Market Competition highlights what the Westport Farmers Market is all about,” said Bill Taibe, co-organizer of the event and owner of Jesup Hall, Kawi Ni, and The Whelk. “It’s a great way to get our chefs in front of customers in a hands-on quick competition and show how they utilize fresh ingredients on the spot while supporting the farmers who work so hard to grow these products.”
On the third Thursday of each month throughout the summer, chefs from local restaurants compete. Each gets $20 and only 30 minutes to shop from vendors at the market and create an appetizer-sized dish. Volunteer judges, selected at random from shoppers, select one winner from each month’s competition to move to the next round and the semi-final round later in the year. The top two chefs from the semi-final round will move on to a final competition in the fall.
Chef contestants are judged on their use of market products; the taste of the dish; cleanliness and presentation of their entry; and originality of recipe.
Participants this year – all of whom volunteered after an invitation went out to chefs who support the WFM – are: Ben Freemole of The Inn at Graybarns; Anthony Kostelis of The Whelk; Anthony Rinaldi of Kawa Ni; Dan Kardos of Oar & Oak and Liberty Rock Tavern; Emily Mingrove of Tavern on State; David Guimaeas of Milestone; Carlos Baez of The Spread and El Segundo; Adam Roytman of Bar Sugo; Matt Storch of Match and Match Burger Lobster; Jay LeBlanc of Knot Norm’s; Jes Bengston of Terrain; and Jeff Taibe of Taproot.
“These local chefs and others are an integral part of the Westport Farmers’ Market,” said Lori Cochran-Dougall, executive director of the market. “Many faithfully buy produce and other products from farmers right here on a weekly and have committed to demonstrating their skills in a fun way through our unique competition. Their dedication to educating the public about creative and even simple ways to use local food is beyond admirable. We appreciate all they do in their restaurants and at the market to make local food accessible to the entire community.”
The Westport Famers’ Market
The Westport Farmers’ Market is committed to providing fresh, local, healthy and seasonal food. We aspire to create a fun, safe and healthy community environment for education and socialization. Our mission is to increase awareness, knowledge and support for local producers focused on sustainable and healthy growing practices.
The Westport Farmers’ Market receives philanthropic support from: Aitoro, Boxcar Cantina; Cohen and Wolf; Club Pilates Westport; CTBites; Doc’s Maple; Earth Animal; Eileen Fisher; Farah’s Farm; Fleishers; Fresh Direct; Gault; Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center; Jesup Hall; Neat Capital; Newman’s Own Foundation; Saugatuck Rowing Club; Sugar & Olives; Westport Sunrise Rotary; Terrain ; Wave Hill Breads; and Wells Hill Farm.