What started just a few months ago as a light-hearted “what if” conversation between Bill Taibe – owner/chef of Jesup Hall, Kawi Ni, and The Whelk – and Lori Cochran-Dougall – executive director of the Westport Farmers’ Market – has already become the talk of the foodie circuit in Fairfield County, Connecticut. The “what if” is Westport Farmers’ Market’s Chef-at-the-Market competition, a local version of the popular Food Network show, Chopped. And if the first “episode” held in May is any indication, this local series will be an even bigger hit!
“The WFM 'Chef of the Market Competition’ highlights what the Westport Farmers Market is all about,” said Bill Taibe, organizer of the new program. “It’s a great way to get our chefs in front of their 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.”
The competition works like this: On the third Thursday of every month through September, three chefs from local restaurants compete. Each gets $20 and 45 minutes to shop from vendors at the market and create an appetizer-sized dish.
Volunteer judges, selected at random from shoppers that day, will select one winner who will move on to the semi-final round the third Thursday, September 20th. The top two chefs from the semi-final round will move on to a final competition in October at the WFM’s biggest event of the year, “Fork it Over”. (Rumor has it there might just be a special celebrity judge for the winning round!).
Chef contestants will be judged on:
1. Their use of market products
2. Taste of the dish
3. Cleanliness and presentation of their entry, and
4. Originality of recipe
Participants – all of whom volunteered after an invitation went out to chefs who support the WFM – are: Geoff Lazlo, Ben Freemole, Christian Wilki, Jeffrey Taibe, Matt Storch, Adam Roytman, Brad Spence, Anthony Kostelis, Anthony Rinaldi, Moises Aguilar, Dan Sabia, and Carlos Baez.
“We had so much fun at the debut of this competition in May!” said Lori Cochran-Dougall. “Not only is it a hoot to watch these great chefs exhibit their talents, the Chef-at-the-Market competition encourages one-on-one conversations with many of their regular patrons. People loved it; it's a not-to-be-missed community event!”
The next competition will be held June 21 at the WFM. Bring your family and friends, and root for your favorite local restauranteur!