Chefs face culinary challenge at farmers market cook-off

Three local chefs will whip out their cooking gear and enter in a culinary duel this afternoon, which is sure to be a palette-pleaser.

The Farmers Market Chef Roulette will be a cookery treat, taking place at the Blacksburg Farmers Market from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. this afternoon. The chefs will make three courses using only ingredients from the farmers market.

The food will be put to the test, as there will be a free tasting provided to the spectators.

“It’s more of a showcase than a competition,” said Ellen Stewart, farmers market director.

The goal is to highlight the local food available in the community. Stewart said two of the chefs from last year’s event will be returning and a new vendor of the farmers market will be taking part as well.

The event is a part of Sustainability Week at Virginia Tech, which aims to showcase and educate students and community members on sustainability, going green and eating local.

First held in 2006 as Blacksburg’s “Environmental Awareness Week,” the town of Blacksburg eventually collaborated with Tech and has since put on its annual Sustainability Week.

Mark Bratton, Randall Spencer and Judith Buccina are the three chefs who will whip up some delicious items in today’s event. Each will fix a different course — appetizer, entree and dessert — to do their part to highlight the message of eating local.

Spencer, chef and owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Catering, will tackle the appetizer.

BRM Catering provides cuisine for a variety of occasions, ranging from weddings and large social events, to an in-home meal service.

Spencer’s experience with his company will no doubt help him in Wednesday’s events, as BRM Catering tries to use fresh ingredients as often as possible.

Spencer already has knowledge of what local produce options he has and what he can make from them.

Bratton, executive chef at West End Market, will make a grass-fed sirloin or loin cut beef entree. Bratton, though unable to scope out Saturday’s market for ingredient choices, hopes to find “yummy local vegetables.”

This will be Bratton’s second time participating in the event and first time doing the entree. Bratton said he is excited to participate in this week’s event again.

“It’s a really good, fun thing to get involved in the community,” Bratton said. “It’s a responsibility as a chef to be active in the community.”

Bratton explained that he is a great supporter of local things and thinks the farmers market is a wonderful local resource.

Last year, Bratton took care of the dessert course, sticking it out through the rain.

Rounding off the trio is Buccina, a trained pastry chef. An Orlando Culinary Association graduate, Buccina specialized in Le Cordon Bleu patisserie and baking, bringing a skilled hand to the dessert dish.

She built up her experience as the chef in charge of dessert at Palisades, a local New River Valley restaurant.

Buccina is a not only participating in this event, but she is also a vendor at the farmers market.

Her knowledge of the local food scene is likely to give her a good idea of what ingredients are available to her to create something to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.

Denny Cochrane, Tech’s sustainability program manager, calls the event a staple of Sustainability Week.

“It’s one of the main events of the week,” Cochrane said, explaining that it always draws a crowd.