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Top WNY chefs show appreciation for local farmers at A Big Fuss

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Feed Your Soul’s ‘A Big Fuss’ event at Artisan Kitchens and Baths was, at its root, an opportunity to help a struggling local farm survive. In a larger sense, though, the event revealed the burgeoning connection between top local restaurants and their food producers, an increased understanding and respect for where the ingredients for fancy concoctions like Merge’s vegan pulled pork and Shango’s chicken and andouille sausage gumbo originate.

[Go here to see photos of people who attended ‘A Big Fuss’]

From conversations with Shango’s Jim Guarino, Bistro Europa’s Steven Gedra, Sample’s Adam Goetz, Lloyd Taco Truck’s Chris Dorsaneo, Merge’s Kate Elliott, Carmelo’s Bruce Wieszala and Athenaeum Hotel’s Ross Warhol—all present at “A Big Fuss”—the relationships that these top chefs develop with local farmers are equally as important as the fresh produce and farm-raised animals that farms produce.

Here’s a quick look at the chefs, their perspectives on locally-sourced ingredients and their culinary creation for “A Big Fuss” using donated foods from local farms like Oles Family Farm, Unfinished Farm, Painted Meadow Farm and T-Meadow Farm.

Restaurant: Shango Bistro and Wine Bar, 3260 Main Street in Buffalo.
A word with head chef Jim Guarino: “Buying from local farms allows me to find the freshest ingredients and include more flavor on a plate. My relationships with local food producers have shown me the passion they have [for their products], and I can’t help but feel the same passion about my cooking as a result.”
Dish at ‘A Big Fuss’: Chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, which included stock that incorporated chicken and turkey from Painted Meadow and onions and garlic from Oles Family Farm.

Restaurant: Bistro Europa, 484 Elmwood Ave. in Buffalo.
A word with Chef Steven Gedra, who happened to be sporting a floppy hat with a pig’s head on top (see header photo): “Our job as head chef is to find the best available ingredients. I’ve worked in restaurants all over the country—from here to New Mexico—and I’m constantly floored by the quality that’s produced here. Plus, for me, it’s less about the food and more about the people.”
Dishes for “A Big Fuss”: Thai bologna lettuce wraps and house-cured T-Meadow Farms prosciutto served with Buffalo mozzarella. Bistro Europa’s menu is one of the best at highlighting the producers of local meats, cheese and vegetables: take a look. Don’t think that the occasional shout-out isn’t of major value to his local distributors.

Restaurant: Sample Restaurant, 242 Allen Street in Buffalo
A word with Chef Adam Goetz: “It’s a valuable connection to have [between chefs and farmers]. The farmers will give you advice, saying things like ‘I know you’ll want this today.’ [Because Sample is focused on smaller, artistic plates], I can almost supplement the restaurant solely from the Bidwell Farmers Market. Buying locally is really the best way to be creative—there’s a bounty of fresh products. If I see arugula that looks especially good, I’ll ask myself, ‘What can I do with this today?’”
Dish at “A Big Fuss”: Sunny-side Up Dessert Egg, featuring coconut meringue (with eggs coming from Painted Meadow), pineapple curd and chocolate biscotti.

Restaurant: Lloyd Taco Truck, mobile food vendor
A word with Chef Chris Dorsaneo: “We like supporting the local economy and introducing people to farms that they may not know about. It’s great that there are events like this [for exposure for the farms], as people really need to know about these products coming out of Buffalo.”
Dish at “A Big Fuss”: Mulita, a taco/quesadilla/pupusa hybrid that cradles a chorizo hash inside of two corn tortillas before it’s topped with an avocado crema. It’s a staple dish in northern Mexico.

Restaurant: Merge, 439 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo
A word with chef Kate Elliott: “We’re actually starting our own farm for Merge where we plan to do our compost of raw food waste. We’ll be growing our own greens and onions and so on, and we’re in the process of ordering seeds. Everything about this is economical: when you feed the local environment, the local environment feeds you.”
Dish at “A Big Fuss”: Vegan pulled pork, which blends braised bean curd, grapefruit pico, saffron cream and alfalfa slaw on top of two large tortilla chips. (Sorry about the exposure on the photo!)

Restaurant: Carmelo’s, 425 Center Street in Lewiston
A word with Chef Bruce Wieszala, who spent the evening carving away at a roasted, stuffed pig: “I like to know exactly where my products come from, and it’s great to be able to put a face with who’s growing [the products]. Everything I buy locally is far superior and very consistent compared to the alternatives. When you buy the whole animal, the cost is economical because there’s 100% utilization and nothing is wasted.”
Dish at “A Big Fuss”: Bruce carved out the heritage breed pig sent directly from T-Meadow Farms, then stuffed it with Italian sausage, fennel, pancetta and more before roasting it for a full day. He then shredded the roasted/stuffed pig and served it with an apple and cherry compote. If you’d like me to email you a photo of the pig being carved, comment on this blog!

Restaurant: Athenaeum Hotel at the Chautauqua Institution, One Ames Ave. in Chautauqua
A word with Chef Ross Warhol, who interned at now-defunct el Bulli in Spain, once widely considered the world’s best restaurant: “The most important thing is the relationship I have with the farmers. [By visiting them], you know the whole [farm-to-table] process and witness it from start to finish. I’ve learned to take my usage of the animal and produce into greater consideration so nothing goes to waste.”
Dish at “A Big Fuss”: Warhol crafted a duck confit with cornbread pudding and caramelized onions.

TAGGED: a big fuss, adam goetz, bruce wieszala, chris dorsaneo, christa glennie seychew, feed your soul, jim guarino, kate elliott, ross warhol, steven gedra

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