From Farm to Table: Chefs for Farmers Event
To Boost Local Producers

A unique twilight dinner has been scheduled at Eden's Garden Organic Garden Center and CSA Farm in Balch Springs that will pair eight chefs from five Dallas restaurants for one evening of dining and music to benefit and celebrate our local farms.

The chefs include Abraham Salum and Al Havens of Salum; Bruno Davaillon of The Mansion on Turtle Creek; Chad Houser and Janice Provost of Parigi Restaurant; Matt McCallister of Stephan Pyles Restaurant; Nathan Tate and Randall Copeland, Resturant Ava of Rockwall; and Ryan Tedder, sommelier of Grace Restaurant Fort Worth.

The farms the chefs will be paired with will include Rocky and Celeste Tassiones' farm in Stephenville; Rockwall's Barking Cat Farms; The Motley Family of Motley Farms; The Caprino Royale farm near Waco; and Eden's Garden Organic Garden Center.

The evening will include a five-course wine paired dinner served by the chefs at an 80-seat communal table on Eden's farm with proceeds to benefit The Gleaning Network of Texas, a grassroots organization that culls surplus fresh produce from farms to alleviate hunger and malnutrition among food-insecure Texans.

Chefs' for Farmers is October 17. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres begin at 4 p.m.; dinner seating at 5 p.m. For ticket information contact these restaurants or visit Chef's for Farmers online at www.chefsforfarmers.com

City of Ate had an opportunity recently to sit with all eight chefs for the event in an exclusive discussion on the subject of benefits of local farms and how we as consumers might be better locavores.

CofA: What are some of the ways that your restaurant currently benefits local farmers? Provost: One of the things we do at Parigi is offer some of the origins of the produce on the menu so that our guests can see what they are eating, and they will often ask questions or make comments on this.

McCallister: One thing we do at Stephan Pyles to promote local farms is we will have classes through out the year, and we will actually bring in the farmers and producers. We will have Paula [Lambert] from Dallas Mozzarella, we will bring in Tom Motley or Rocky from Tassione's and do a cooking class based on these people. It is different and more interactive and a lot more fun.

CofA: Do you find some sources might shy away from the larger restaurants because of the amount of production you might require? Davaillon: Coming from the West Coast, [I found] it is a bit different here. Whereas we might have had the farmers coming to our door selling produce, I have to actually seek these farms out to find what I might need, and it can be a learning process for both of us.

McCallister: This has been true for our beef and chicken producers. In trying to source these items locally, I had to meet and talk with them to discuss our needs. Then it was a matter of giving the rancher time to get up to speed.

CofA: What type of access do we as consumers have to these farms? Provost: There is some access to the actual farms, like Windy Meadows. But there are some great websites which detail access, like LocalHarvest. It will show you all the farms and whether or not they welcome visitors.

CofA: When at the various Farmers Markets, how do we know we are actually buying local? Houser: It is a matter of educating yourself and speaking with the people. I know at Dallas Farmers Market the local farmers are certified, and there is a representative that will visit the farms to ensure that the products are grown there, and in quantities that show that all the produce comes from that farm. They will actually give these farmers special signage that shows they are certified.

CofA: Why is it so important we buy locally? Salum: It is very important to know what we are putting into our bodies, where this produce comes from, if for no other reason than for our health. We do not always list the supplier on our menus, but when we have a special supplier we do make that distinction.

Davaillon: Yes, and it is important from economics. We want to keep the money local to help our local economy and farmers. This way we have better local products to choose from.

Houser: A big part of all this is community and taking care of each other.

CofA: How are the local Texas wines? Copeland: There are some terrific local Texas wineries. We probably all use these wines like Inwood Winery, McPherson, Times Ten and many others. Some of the local wines can be more expensive because of the quantities produced, but these grapes are getting better all time and something we like to offer.

Provost: That is another way to support our community, by selecting these wines and using their products.

CofA: How do we support these farmers year round, especially the winter months? Tate: It can be difficult since the seasons can be brutal in Texas. We may go months without rainfall, and J.T. Lemley will not be able to provide his tomatoes. But many are using the greenhouses. It is not quite as good, but they are cared for greater than if shipped from across the country.

CofA: How did the Chef's for Farmers event come about? McCallister: As restaurateurs, we are some of the biggest supporters of these ranchers and farmers, and in speaking with my wife, Iris, it just made sense. She was wanting to know more about where these products came from, and we go as a family to visit these producers. It all came about organically, and it just makes sense.

Provost: I like to compare what we are doing here much like what Dean Fearing, Stephan Pyles and the Group of Five did for Southwest cuisine. We are now doing with this farmers movement. We are bringing local to the people so they may enjoy it and benefit from what is produced.

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