Sunday, February 26th: A Tribute To Seattle's Farmers Market Loving Chefs!

To be honest, I am exhausted this week, so I'm gonna go a little light on this week's post. But I have a good excuse. You see, my other gig is working with the Seattle chapter of Chefs Collaborative, and tomorrow is their biggest event of the year -- Farmer-Fisher-Chef Connection -- and I am one of the main organizers. Every year at this time of year, 400 farmers, fishers, ranchers, food & beverage artisans, chefs, retailers, distributors, institutional buyers, etc., get together for a day and network, establish business relationships, take workshops, problem solve, eat and drink great local stuff, and generally celebrate the amazing local food community of which they are all part. Tomorrow is the 7th annual such gathering, and it is the largest of its kind in the nation -- part of what makes Seattle the best local food town in the country.

When Seattle Chefs Collaborative first began to organize in 1999, restaurants with chefs dedicated to using local ingredients numbered less than 50, and many ingredients we take for granted at our farmers markets today -- from flour to grass-fed beef to hard cider to dried beans -- were not yet available locally. That seems like a lifetime ago, and all of these local ingredients are commonplace today -- we couldn't imagine life without them. Restaurants featuring local ingredients number in the hundreds now in Seattle, and they can be found in local communities throughout the state. Heck, Ballard alone has almost as many such restaurants now as could be found in the entire city 13 years ago.

What is special about tomorrow's event is that it is the living embodiment of how, in the case of Seattle's local food movement, it does, in fact, take a village -- indeed, it couldn't happen without the involvement of the entire village -- and it is at Farmer-Fisher-Chef Connection that that village will be gathered Monday. This is not a "foodie" event. It is an event for working professionals intent on making the nation's best local food scene even better, and it is not just the "usual suspects" and big-name chefs. You'll find an institutional food service chef who cook for bureaucrats at the FAA in Renton and another who cooks at Nordstrom, a coastal processor who believes Washington sardines are to good to simply be used for bait, a farm on Lopez Island that raises pigs and goats, and harvests pink salmon and butter clams, a guy who makes grappa and vodka from Washington apples, and an Oregon wasabi farmer.

Seattle Farmers Market Association, which manages your Ballard Farmers Market, has a long relationship not only with the farmers, fishers, ranchers and food and beverage artisans of Washington, but also the chefs of Seattle who are committed to using local ingredients on their menus. We have always seen our mission as going beyond merely bringing the neighborhoods we serve with our markets great local food. We also see them as opportunities for community building, and that's why we offer cooking demonstrations at all of our markets featuring chefs only from the area surrounding each market. Our Wallingford Farmers Market was the first in Seattle to offer a chefs-only period at the start of the market, and the photo above shows three of Seattle finest chefs, Dustin Ronspies of Art of the Table, Seth Caswell of emmer&rye, and Rachel Yang of Joule & Revel, at Wallingford picking up fresh, local produce for their restaurants.

The other yummy photos today are of various concoctions made by Seattle chefs at our markets over the course of the 2011 market season, using ingredients they got from our market vendors. Each dish is simple, beautiful, delicious, and easily replicable by you and I at home. And that, in the end, is truly what makes Seattle's local food scene so amazing. You see, when people ask, "What is Seattle's cuisine?", the answer isn't Creole like New Orleans, cheese steaks like Philly, or Kansas City barbecue. In Seattle, our cuisine is a celebration of the finest local ingredients treated with reverence by local chefs in straightforward recipes that make the ingredients themselves the stars. You can see it in the photos above, or on just about any menu in town. Sure, each menu may be different, and food styles diverse. The commonality is in how they celebrate the ingredients they use. That is Seattle's cuisine. That is what makes Seattle a special food town. And tomorrow, Seattle's local food community takes time out to gather, network, and celebrate. It's our day. It's our annual family reunion. So do us a favor. Load up on great local ingredients today at your Ballard Farmers Market, cuz you'll be doing your own cooking tomorrow night!

Hey, there is plenty of local deliciousness waiting for you today at your Ballard Farmers Market. Just check What’s Fresh Now! for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now.