In an effort to raise awareness about how to prepare fresh meat and vegetables, the Detroit Flint Metropolitan Agriculture Group is hosting a contest they are calling the Next Urban Chef. Teams of cooks, people without professional culinary training or commercial cooking experience, will be squaring off at a series of events in September to determine who will make it to the finals Friday October 7 at Detroit’s Eastern Market.
Erin Lamb, youth program director for the Crim Fitness Foundation says this contest fits in with the larger effort in Flint to get young people thinking about how to use fresh, local food.
“By doing type of role model contest, we are hoping it could raise awareness about using local food. Maybe make it cool,” she hopes.
Matthew Naimi, director of operations at Recycle Here! is part of the team helping put this together. He notes that the food shed that stretches from Flint through Detroit and Windsor to Toledo grows or raises most of the food our area needs to sustain itself. One of the challenges is getting people use to the idea of using fresh food and he hopes this contest will help spark that idea.
“One of our recommendations (to the Detroit Flint Metropolitan Agriculuture Group) is to get more young people in Detroit and Flint interested in the food system,” said Naimi. “So we thought of this idea of trying to find an urban food star and how to we cultivate our own food talent.”
The all volunteer competition asked people to complete essays about why they should be a part of the competition. From those essays, six contestants from Flint and six from Detroit have been selected. They will work in teams of three with local chefs to help refine their talents before the competition.
In round two of the competition each team will be given a box of food to cook from similar to the way the television show Iron Chef gives their chefs ingredients to work with. For this competition, the box will be filled with food exclusively from the food shed. The winning team from each city will be forwarded on to the final challenge at Shed Three in Eastern Market.
The final teams will receive coaching before the finals as well. Organizers have worked out commitments from Dave Mancini of Supinos Pizza to work with the Detroit team and Andrew Hollyday, the executive chef at Roast to work with Flint’s entry.
Naimi is motivated to see this competition happen and become an annual tradition in part because of something he has heard Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market say quite often.
“Carmody has a great quote, ‘we need to make sure that kids look at a carrot and see normal and look at a Twinkie and see odd,’ because right now, we’ve lost that. Right now food looks like stuff astronauts eat and actual vegetables look confusing,” he says.
For Lamb, her motivation is deeply rooted in her background in dietetics and her work in sustainable living.
“That’s where my passion is, using local foods and using local resources,” she notes.
Regardless of the motivations behind starting a food fight, this one sounds like a tasty way to start eating more food right out of our own backyards.