Chefs For Farmers is an event in which 30 area chefs compete for attendees' votes with a singular signature bite. The winning chef gets $2,500 toward his or her charity of choice. The event was created by Iris and Matt McCallister to support local farms, local ingredients and getting really full, drunk and sweaty.
1. The three kings of Dallas cheffery. Fearing. Rathbun. Pyles. And just about every chef you've ever heard of or haven't heard of yet from Dallas, and even some from Austin and San Antonio. In other words, if Chefs For Farmers was the U.S. government, the Secret Service would have been shitting their pants. If a bomb were to hit Lee Park, some sad sous chef with the Sunday afternoon shift would be like effing King Ralph and become the ruler of all our stomachs.
2. Lucky, our most dramatic bartender, shaking it as usual. If Lucky Campbell, the bartender-owner recently booted from the Chesterfield, was still living in Dramatown, he sure wasn't showing it. In fact, I heard he was pouring drinks and telling stories to everybody who came by for some Maker's Mark-spiked sips. And he sure kept up his celebutender image in a sharp black vest, a long-sleeved white shirt and of course, his trusty fedora.
3. Wine, wine and more wine. Red, white, bubbly, dry and sweet, with all kinds of different mouthfeels. I just like saying mouthfeel. But the wine wasn't doing it for me. I fell in love with the strawberry-sage Patrón cocktail that Bolsa's Kyle Hilla was shaking out. I saw a blender filled to the brim with bright red strawberries, and I think did that "swoon" thing the kids talk about these days. I want a beer bladder filled with that heavenly nectar of the gods. Please and thank you.
4. Hello! Incredible food. What was good? Thought you'd never ask. Here are just a few of my favorites to get you drooling:
Chef Jeffrey Hobbs' Black and Blue cobbler. It was topped with cream and not for sissies.
Chef Brian Luscher's balls. Spicy chicken, rabbit and pork, and Luscher telling folks to put his balls in their mouth. Yup.
Chef Graham Dodds' Chocolate and Cajeta Pudding with Spicy Shortbread Cookie. Complexity like this belongs in dessert, and a dessert like this belongs in my mouth.
Cheese, glorious cheese. From the Mozzarella Company, Artizone and many other local milk magicians.
Chef Pyles' giant hunk of salmon. Served raw with a menagerie of accoutrements and a cheese chicharon, Pyles proved that our Texas heat can't smother his creativity.
Chef Harris' chicken with chicken skin. Yes, that chicken skin. And yes, it's "I'll have what she's having" good.
5. Pretty decent swag. Guests went home with a tiny brown bottle of Patrón XO Cafe. Hell yes. Also, some bad-ass Whole Foods bumper stickers, some gluten-free snacks that my dog might like to try (sorry), hand-operated fans, olive oil and one of those reusable shopping bags from Whole Foods.
6. Good looking folk. For some, Saturday's Derby Day was a simply dress rehearsal for Chefs for Farmers. I saw bow ties, big-brimmed hats, a man-bee and even a couple of kilts. And kilts are like Segways; saunter up with one and you can get in anywhere. And speaking of segues...
7. Dean Fearing's BAND.Yeah, so I didn't know Dean Fearing had a band, and when I heard the -- ahem -- talkative emcee announce him I figured he was playing a joke on the honoree. Nope. Chef Fearing is the frontman and we all got to hear him sing. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
8. A pretty damn well-planned event. OK, so the parking wasn't stellar and the weather wasn't fabulous. But Iris McCallister did mention she was thinking of pushing next year's event to October. Probably because she's tired and wants to give herself more time to plan. Either way I'm liking the sound of that. There were hand-washing stations, plenty of cold water and tons of trash cans. Preparedness-wise, South by Southwest, Coachella and ACL could take more than a few pointers from CFF.
9. Lady goats. In an odd twist of events, the three honored chefs from Chefs for Farmers were awarded gift baskets ... and photos of goats. Kinda odd, but not as odd as the fact that we were told these photos of goats were intended to represent the wives of all three honored chefs. And they kept referring to their wives as "Lady Fearing, Lady Pyles and Lady Rathbun." If you didn't really follow any of that, don't worry, none of us did either. In fact, maybe I imagined the whole thing. It certainly was hot out there ...
10. The winningest dish. After much ado and many, many annoying Russian toasts, the announcement was made that Abraham Salum's chilled poblano soup won the big prize. And because of this the SPCA is getting $2,500 big ones. That's going to help out a lot of furry friends.