A Chef’s Assistant Debrief on the Boston Local Food Festival

October 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm (food, volunteer) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I volunteered to be a “Chef’s Assistant” for the 3rd Annual Boston Local Food Festival, which was on the Rose Kennedy Greenway’s Wharf District Parks (between Atlantic Avenue and High Street) in downtown Boston.

The day-long event featured local farmers, restaurants, specialty foods, chef’s demonstrations, music and more.  As a “Chef’s Assistant,” I was on hand to assist the demo Chefs with anything they may need; I tracked down rubber gloves, helped read the directions to light the propane stove, composted and/or recycled demo supplies, and packed-up and broke down the booth at the end.  But, while “working,” I also had some very tasty bites and gleaned a bit of knowledge from these fine chefs.

During my shift, I had the pleasure of assisting:

  • Patrick Soucy from Ceia Kitchen & Bar (Newburyport, MA): Patrick focused on sharing the value of under-ripe or over-ripe produce.  Ceia features a European culinary repertoire and seasonal menus, and Chef wanted to challenge our American, often wasteful attitude toward food.  For example, many of us will throw out our bruised or slightly over-ripe tomatoes.   Soucy embraces the snout-to-tail cooking mentality, and joked that if he could find a way to cook the squeal, he would.   Soucy made a “Farm Cheese, [under-ripe, green] Tomato Tartar and Concord Grape Reduction” on a Crostini.  I’ll not forget how he tested the temperature of the smoking, cast-iron pan by pressing his fingertips down in it.  I heard a sizzle and he didn’t bat and eyelash.  Soucy has a great personality for demonstrations.  He was comfortable in front of the crowd, knowledgeable and passionate about food and sourcing.  He has inspired me, and many demo observers to attempt home-made farmer’s cheese.  Follow Chef Soucy on Twitter at @FarmReserve.  And check out this interesting read: ‘Freeganism’ challenges wasteful attitudes towards perishable foods.
  • Chef Nadine of Global Local Gourmet (Dorchester, MA): Nadine focused on making local veggies the star.  Her dish was “Hale to the Kale” and Nadine chiffonaded and massaged her kale into an Asian inspired salad.  Demo observers were taking cellphone pictures of the dressing ingredients and asked what else they could do with their kale.  One observer had “questionable kale” at home, which was described as “slightly wilted.”  Nadine simply recommended cooking over-ripe greens rather than making a salad.   Here’s a beautiful recipe I found for White Bean and Kale Soup with Roasted Sausages and Tomatoes.    Nadine was also sharing details of her Public Kitchen initiative, a lab for social and food justice.  Learn more at www.facebook.com/PublicKitchen
  • Amy Traverso, senior lifestyle editor at Yankee magazine and author of The Apple Lover’s Cookbook: Amy was signing her cookbook and also featuring an apple pickle (apple, cucumber, shallot, honey, cinnamon and herbs), and an Apple Grilled Cheese with mustard.     Now this lady knows a lot about apples (and Apple Cider); she has appeared on the Martha Stewart show, Throw down with Bobby Flay, and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  Maybe you’ll spot her at the Franklin County Ciderdays (Nov 3&4), which she enthused about to demo observers.  You can follow Amy on twitter at @amytraverso

The festival was packed at 1:30 when I arrived, thanks in part to the Greenway location (connecting Faneuil Hall, the Aquarium, the Financial District and South Station), which brought in tourists from all over, as well as locavores who had planned to attend.  The rain dampened festival goer’s enthusiasm at 4-ish, but many of the restaurant vendors had sold out of their dishes, so the early birds certainly got the worm this year.

I’ve lived in Boston for 12 years now, and I remember the days when the “Big Dig” was in process and 93 was still an eyesore, elevated highway through high-rises.  If you haven’t visited the Greenway, you should make a trip on a nice day.  This urban park features native horticulture, public art installations, fountains and grassy lawns.  It’s a great spot for events and I look forward to volunteering again next year at the 4th Annual Food Boston Local Food Festival.

Please let me know if you’d be interested in volunteering and I’ll put you in contact with a representative for next year.  Also, please comment if you were there, or if you have thoughts or feedback.

All this foody typing makes me want to go cook up something warm, fresh and LOCAL!

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