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ACF Chefs Tackle Farmers Market Cooking Challenge in St. Paul

Chef John Van House holds his finished dish of duck breast, duck liver mash, crispy farro and pork sausage cake and kimchi hollandaise.

Danielle McFarland

Billows of smoke and steam rose from hot pans and chafing dishes while competitors clad in chef whites and toques chopped, seared and sautéed ingredients. Onlookers surrounded the makeshift kitchen stations as chefs prepared their dishes, some snapping photos with their phones. Chefs in action filled plastic spoons from their pans and offered tastes to the curious as judges from the American Culinary Federation stood close behind.

The ACF Minneapolis Chapter held its third annual chef’s competition at the St. Paul Farmers Market in September, with the category KG-Green, Worldchefs-sanctioned competition bringing in three judges from Atlanta, Madison and Chicago. The match took place at the weekend market September 23-27, with participants cooking to take home gold, silver or bronze medals with accompanying certificates. The criteria were based on the finish of one dish while displaying levels of organization, cooking skills and cooking techniques. And, of course, overall taste accrued points for the winning chefs.

But the event served as more than just a competition to advance participants in the ACF organization. The ACF partnered with vendors from the market and the chapter’s own supporting vendors, who donated key ingredients for the sustainable and local food event. In this competition, chefs had one hour to complete a dish incorporating six ingredients: duck and duck liver, donated by Maple Leaf Farms; pork sausage, donated by Bar Five; farro, donated by In Harvest; kohlrabi, donated by Jordan Ranch; and kimchi, donated by Natasha’s Pierogi.

“It’s going to be bigger and better every year,” said Keith Huffman, chairman for the competition. One of the ways the ACF continues education for its members is by putting their skills to the test in a competitive atmosphere. As a result, culinary competitions are held across the U.S. throughout the year at local chapters for culinary students and professionals alike.

The result of the two-day competition was a jovial showdown igniting excitement and passion for using sustainable and local foods. Attendees walked away with increased awareness of the ACF, along with understanding the relationships between chefs, farmers and ranchers. Three ACF chef finalists took home bronze metals: Chef John Von House, Chef Robert Velarde and Chef Keith Huffman. 

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