Chefs for Farmers a home run for chefs, farmers, food pilgrims

lee park turned out to be a great venue for cff

chad houser

chad houser and janice provost served a stunning sweet potato salad with quail

andre natera, one of the city's best chefs

jack perkins schmoozin' and grillin

jeff harris served his 1PD chicken (I wrote about this One Perfect Dish earlier on the Hatch)

whole foods' karen lukin was there (she's a big EscapeHatch fan, since she won the Samsung Tablet in a Hatch giveaway in December)

tre wilcox, superstar

scott romano and joel harrington

fearings shrimp and field pea salad (Thanks, Eric!)

dean fearing works the crowd

pecan lodge bbq

justin four ton of pecan lodge

Chefs for Farmers has held its food festivals in a field, an indoor catering venue, a cafeteria and, now, in a park in the middle of uptown Dallas. In its best effort to date, event organizers Iris McCallister and Christina LaBarba have hit their biggest home run.

“We’re expecting nearly a thousand people to attend today,” LaBarba told me, standing under a tall, shady Oak tree on the edge of Lee Park, the site of this year’s Chefs for Farmers. “We have 1,500 bottles of water and I’ve just ordered even more.”

Despite (or maybe because of) temperatures in the 90s, the crowd was packed with food pilgrims of all ages, from strollers to walkers, who came to support area chefs and the farmers who supply them with fresh produce, meats, cheeses, raw ingredients, even honey.

Tickets sold out months ago. They turned out to be one of the hottest $50 tickets in town, too.

Each chef (and his or her brigade) served from one of the shaded tables arranged around the perimeter of the park. Barbecue was well represented, as was beef, chicken, cheeses, fresh produce–even Texas peaches from Parker County (they’re not quite as sweet as I expected, but it’s still early in the season).

I ran into some of the cheffiest names in town, all working the crowds. Dean Fearing and Kent Rathbun were all there, as were Tre Wilcox (Marquee), Eric Dreyer (Fearings), Tiffany Derry (Private Social), Andre Natera (Pyramid), Chad Houser and Janice Provost (Parigi and Cafe Momentum), Jack Perkins (Maple & Motor), Jeff Harris (Bolsa), Justin Fourton (Pecan Lodge BBQ), Randall Copeland (Restaurant Ava), Matt McCallister  (FT33), Scott Romano (formerly of Charlie Palmer), Jill and Jeff Bergus (Lockhart Smokehouse) and San Antonio chefs David Gilbert (Sustenio) and Jason Dady (Bin 555).

Each chef was paired with a farmer or artisan producer, and attendees could drop a few bucks as a donation to help the farmer/artisan fulfill a wish list item (Cold Springs Farm, for example, was raising money for a $500 chiller unit for their hydroponic farm, while Eden’s Organic CSA hoped to make a dent in a $5,000 wish for a front end loader).

McCallister and LaBarba describe CFF as “a grassroots organization that celebrates all things local…a group of volunteers who put on no-fuss events in support of local farmers, as well as the chefs and businesses that participate in the local food movement. We donate 100% of our profits to charitable causes. Our goal…is to raise awareness for the locavore movement in Texas.”

This year, CFF says it will donate all its profits to Meals on Wheels – Tarrant County and Water for Chizavane, which helps poor communities in Mozambique obtain clean water.