EASLEY — The Easley Farmer’s Market Tuesday edition has wrapped for the 2014 season and did so with great taste.
Holding the finals of the 2014 Easley Farmer’s Market chef competition July 29, the market was blessed with cool temperatures and hot dishes with the judges struggling to decide on a clear cut winner, one judge saying it was “one of the toughest competitions” they had ever judged.
With the public’s vote though, a winner was crowned and champion for at least a year.
“This competition helped bring some people out to the market we might not have seen before,” Lisa Garrett of the city of Easley said. “It brought some excitement downtown and the crowds were really good all summer long. But I think everybody wanted to taste what the finalists were offering tonight.”
The chefs — Donna Pace of Bleu Voodoo in Easley, culinary student Aaron Gollach, and Jason Ezell of Shem Creek Seafood and Catering — didn’t disappoint, pulling together recipes from a list of ingredients provided to them the day before: London broil, shiitake mushrooms, bacon, watermelon, potatoes, and corn, plus up to five seasonings or ingredients of their choosing.
“In the other rounds of the competition, we had the chefs use nothing but ingredients from the market with part of the judging based on the best use of the goods in the market,” Garrett said. “We decided to shake it up a little and give them a tough set of ingredients to work with and let them know yesterday (July 28) what they would be using in the final.”
Although the competition may have been stiff, Donna Pace prepared a dish of London broil with shiitake mushroom sauce, potato and corn chowder, topped off by grilled watermelon with praline/bacon topping.
“When they gave us the ingredients I knew I wanted to do something different which wasn’t mashed potatoes,” Pace said. “I do potato and corn chowder in the restaurant and thought it would work well with what I had in mind.”
Pace was winging it with the grilled watermelon and topping but the reaction to her ingenuity was well received.
“Everyone had a really great time and all the cooks all summer were very talented,” Pace said. “It was different when they gave us the ingredients to prepare but it probably made it more interesting for everybody.”
Garrett said the decision to distribute an ingredient list was to create a level playing field “where they all had to transform the same ingredients,” sparking creativity.
As for the purpose of the competition, it was all about community.
“We wanted to highlight our downtown area and the restaurants,” Garrett said. “Our goal was to have three divisions of competition for students and seasoned cooks, those that just enjoy it at home and caterers, so everyone could compete and have a chance for their work to be highlighted too.”
Although the Tuesday Farmer’s Market is closed for the season, the market remains open on Saturdays with the final day set for Oct. 4 and a holiday market scheduled for Nov. 8.