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Bon Appetit Challenges Chefs to Go Local

Bon Appetit Challenges Chefs to Go Local

Bon Appetit’s annual Eat Local Challenge tests chefs’ ingenuity and creativity.

Every September since 2005, Bon Appetit Management Co. has tested the creativity, ingenuity and talents of its unit chefs with an event called the Eat Local Challenge. The initiative (which won an FM Best Concept Award in 2006) asks Bon Appetit chefs to create a menu for a single meal (September 23rd this year) that uses ingredients sourced exclusively from within a 150-mile radius.

Naturally, this poses considerable hurdles based on where a unit is located and what kinds of products are made nearby. Want to serve turkey sandwiches? Find locally grown wheat and yeast for the bread and a turkey farm for the protein. If you want to serve fish, you better be near an ocean, or at least a big lake.

One year, one hardcore coastal chef even boiled down seawater to make “local” salt for his recipe!

In conjunction with Eat Local Challenge, which had its 10th anniversary this year, Bon Appetit is also celebrating the 15th anniversary of its Farm to Fork program, which requires company chefs to source at least 20% of their ingredients from small, owner-operated farms within 150 miles of their kitchens.

The company now has more than 1,400 Farm to Fork registered vendors and this year it took the $50,000 earmarked as its annual gift to a single food-related nonprofit in the name of its clients, and broke it into 10 grants of $5,000 apiece.

Those grant recipients were determined by the votes of 26,000 Eat Local Challenge customers, who determined the 10 winners from a field of 25 finalists.

They are…

Black Mesa Ranch, Snowflake, AZ

Campus Community Farm at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St. Mary’s City, MD

MD Flying Fish Company, Portland, OR

Garden Treasures Organic Farm, Arlington, WA

Horse Listeners Orchard, Ellington, CT

Locals Seafood, Raleigh, NC

New Creation Farm, Chardon, OH

Open Hands Farm, Northfield, MN

Open Space Meats LLC, Newman, CA

Red Fire Farm, Montague, MA

(See for full details on their projects.)

This year's prime dishes

At Lewis

Here are some of the most imaginative and creative dishes, along with the key ingredients and their local source/supplier, produced by individual Bon Appetit chefs during this year’s challenge as Selected by Eat Local Challenge menu reviewer Executive Chef Thom Fox:

Blueberry & Field Greens Salad, Maple Glazed Walnuts, Smoked Gouda, Honey/Sunflower Oil/Vinegar Dressing
(from Linda Brinegar, Executive Chef, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI)
•    blueberries: Paw Paw MI
•    field greens: Andrews University Student Garden
•    walnuts: KlineKrest Farm
•    maple syrup: Lynd Creek Sugar Camp
•    smoked Gouda: Guffisberg-Deutsch Kase Haus
•    honey: Sweet Life Honey Farm
•    vinegar: Michigan Wine
•    sunflower oil: Traverse City Culinary Oils

Pit Beef Sandwich, Horseradish Red Cabbage Relish, Housemade Buttermilk Buns (using a café made Levain ferment), Potato-Cheddar Gratin, Maple Glazed Rainbow Carrots
(from Michael Cleary, Executive Chef, St John’s College, Annapolis, MD)
•    beef: Roseda Farm
•    horseradish, dairy, vegetables, maple syrup, flour : Lancaster Farm COOP

Spelt Pasta with Chicken, Garlic, Herbs, Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
(from Toni Rennecker-Young, Chef Manager, Dennison University, Dennison, OH)
•    spelt for pasta: Shagbark Mill, Athens, OH
•    local chicken
•    herbs, garlic: Birds Haven Farm, Granville, OH
•    sunflower oil: Wade, OH
•    goat cheese: Hiram, OH

House-made Potato Gnocchi with Calamari Bolognese
(from Armando Maes, Executive Chef, Café 300/Oracle, Redwood Shores, CA)
•    milled kamut flour for gnocchi: Riverdog, Guinda, CA
•    red lasoda potatoes for gnocchi: Full Belly, Guinda, CA
•    eggs for gnocchi: Skylarke Ranch, Winters, CA
•    olive oil for gnocchi: Seka Hills, Rumsey, CA
•    calamari/squid, anchovies: Monterey Bay via Vince's Shellfish, South San Francisco, CA
•    chile flakes dried & crushed from Arbol chiles: Riverdog Farms, Guinda, CA

Ragout of Beans with Tomatoes, Sauteed Chard
(from Dana Beaulieu, Executive Chef, unnamed corporate account, Cary, NC)
•    cream peas: Brinkley Farm, Creedmoor, NC
•    field peas: Cottle Farm, Faison, NC
•    grape tomato: Wildflower Farm, Efland, NC
•    rainbow chard: Fishel Organics, Grassy Creek, NC
•    onions: Lyon Farm, Creedmoor, NC
•    salt: Carolina Salt Works, Ash, NC
•    Calvander cheese, Chapel Hill Creamery, Chapel Hill, NC

Stewed  Goat with Purple Crowder Peas and Creamy Polenta  
(from Mike Moroni, General Manager, Averett University, Danville, VA)
•    goat, purple hulled peas, garlic: White Flint Farm, Keeling, VA
•    tomatoes: Sunburst Tomato Co., Nashville, VA
•    flour: Lindley Mills, Graham, NC
•    onion: Cotlles Organic Farm, Rose Hill, NC
•    butter, cream: Homestead Creamery, Burnt Chimney, VA
•    polenta: Lindley Mills , Graham, NC
•    oregano, basil: M&M Farms , Monroe, NC
•    sage: Homegrown at the café
Pumpkin Sweet Potato and Escarole Apple Cider Soup
(from Chris Wozny, Executive Chef, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA)
•    pumpkin: Horse Listeners Orchard, Ashford, CT
•    sweet potato: Young’s Family Farms, Little Compton, RI
•    escarole: Fisher Farms, Somerset, MA
•    apple cider: Horse Listeners Orchard, Ashford, CT        
Grilled Quail and Mix Greens Salad with House Cured Bacon Lardon Garden Serrano and Lime Vinaigrette with a Quail Egg
(from Charles Large, Executive Chef, unnamed corporate account, San Antonio, TX)
•    quail/quail egg: Diamond X, Bandera, TX
•    mix greens: Animal Farm, Cat Spring, TX
•    pork belly: Richardson Farm, Rockdale, TX
•    serrano, lime, herbs: onsite garden
•    olive oil: Texas Olive Ranch, Dripping Springs, TX
Triticale berry butternut squash and sage risotto
(from Christopher Parrott, Executive Chef, University of St. Joseph, West Hartford, CT)
•    triticale berries: Four Star Farms, Northfield, MA
•    butternut squash, tomatoes: Horse Listener Farms, Ashford, CT
•    herbs: onsite herb garden
•    butter: Guida’s Dairy, New Britain, CT


Black Mesa Ranch Goat Cheesecake with Arizona Pecans

Executive Chef Chris Lenza’s Black Mesa Ranch Goat Cheese Cheesecake for Café Allegro at the Musical Instrument Museum ended up not being 100% local, due to sugar and vanilla (see recipe), but was intended to showcase the Arizona goat dairy’s fine cheese to encourage voting.

From Chris Lenza, Executive Chef, Bon Appetit Mgt. Co. for Café Allegro at the Musical Instrument Museum

Pecan Crust

1 cup lightly roasted pecans
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


11 ounces Black Mesa Ranch Goat Cheese
¼ cup granulated sugar
4 ounces sour cream
2 Tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs

Pecan crust:

Combine pecans and sugar in food processor and process until meal-fine. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the melted butter. Divide the mixture into a 12-well mini-muffin pan filled with paper liner.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Refrigerate the crusts until chilled, then bake for 6-8 minutes until set.


Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Combine goat cheese and sugar in a food processor bowl and process for a minute. Add sour cream, honey, vanilla extract and salt and process for another 30 seconds. With the food processer running, add eggs one at a time until just combined.

Transfer the filling to a measuring cup with a pour spout and fill each cheesecake almost to the top. Place the muffin pan on a sheet pan and bake for 18 minutes until just barely set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill the cheesecakes for a minimum of 4 hours.

Remove the cheesecakes from the pan and serve with Black Mesa Ranch goat fudge and pecans.

Cornmeal Encrusted White Bass with Hot Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Relish

From Matthew Krasnevich, Chef/Manager, Bon Appétit Management Co. at Oberlin College

For the fish
-    1 lb. white bass (v-cut the bone with belly removed)
-    1½ cups flour
-    egg wash (6 eggs and ¼ cup milk)
-    1½ cups cornmeal
-    ¼ pound butter melted

For the hot pepper and heirloom tomato relish
-    2 each heirloom tomatoes, small dice
-    ½ bunch fresh cilantro and parsley chopped
-    1 tsp. salt
-    ¼ tsp. white pepper, ground
-    3 cloves garlic, minced
-    ½ red onion, small dice
-    1 Tbsp. butter
-    1 each Hungarian hot wax pepper small dice
-    1 each jalapeno pepper small dice
-    1 each red bell pepper small dice
-    1 each yellow bell pepper dice

1. Drag fish through flour, then egg wash and then cornmeal
2. Refrigerate fish for hour
3. Heat sauté pan over medium heat for 2 minutes; add butter and quickly add fillets non-skin side down
4. Hear fish for 3 minutes or until golden brown; flip over and sear other side for 3 minutes
5. Remove fish from pan and place on plate to hold
6. FOR THE RELISH: place tomato, cilantro/parsley, salt and pepper in mixing bowl
7. Heat up sauté pan over medium heat for 2 minutes; add garlic, onion and butter
8. Cook for 3 minutes; add all peppers and cook for 2 more minutes
9. Add pepper mixture to bowl with tomato mixture and stir
10. Place relish on top of fish right before service

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