Nickel City Chef, Buffalo’s Finest Chefs & Ingredients hits the bookstores this week. The book, written by Christa Glennie Seychew, features the Nickel City Chef competition – an hour-long competition between chefs using a surprise local ingredient in front of a live audience – with expert judges and audience participation determining the outcome. It’s the only competition like this in the U.S. Even the chef competitions on TV have limited audience members or engagement – and none feature locally grown or produced ingredients.
I’ve attended a competition and it’s a break-neck pace of chefs doing the most creative things with ordinary ingredients – but all of the highest caliber. While chefs are cooking, attendees (around 250 each competition) are treated to great food & drink, hosts talk to the chefs while they work, the secret ingredient farmer or producer is there being interviewed by the hosts, you can purchase, or order the secret ingredient during the event. Multiple overhead video monitors and a video crew allow every seat to be a good seat. The competition takes place in a kitchen & bath store, in an old warehouse with two working (drool-worthy) kitchens.
|Each color-coded chapter,
or “Competion” starts out
with a featured local
ingredient – and interview
with the producer/grower and
what they do to make
their product special.
Christa has long been this area’s greatest advocate for the farm-to-fork movement. She (as Feed Your Soul Productions) arranges everything from farmers’ market tours, farm tours, a pastry competiton and this signature event, Nickel City Chef.
Nickel City Chef (NCC) has gained a large following – and the number one request has been to get some of the competition recipes for these followers. Not content to just do a cookbook, Christa has made this book a rallying cry for the use of local growers and producers products – everything from eggs to potatoes to pork. There are more than 7,500 farms in Western New York and Christa’s goal is always to get restaurants to purchase more produce locally – and with this “cookbook-plus” hopefully more consumers will be open to buying more direct from farmers, or at least look for the farmer’s products in local stores.
|Two recipes from each competition are
thoroughly researched and tested multiple times
to make sure they can be produced in
an average kitchen. Simple-to-follow directions,
plating suggestions and full color
photos are provided for all recipes.
In the book, you’ll find:
- A forward by Manhattan food writer and cookbook author Regina Schrambling. Regina’s best known as snarkmistress of her acerbic website, Gastropoda.com, which skewers absurdities in the food world. She contributes to Plate, Slate, Culture, Edible Manhattan, Gourmet Live and blogs at Epicurious.com. Her resumé includes stints as deputy editor of the New York Times Dining section and contract writer for the Los Angeles Times Food section. Anthony Bourdain has called her “the angriest person writing about food.”
- Features on each of the local farmers/producers of the ingredients featured in the sixteen chapters.
- Ingredient sources for the sixteen local ingredients: eggs, sausage, yogurt, potatoes, ricotta, shiitake mushrooms, grapes, cherries, maple syrup, wine, pork, chicken, apples, tomatoes, beer and duck eggs.
- Two recipes from each of sixteen competitions, one by each participating chef, from the very approachable to the “experienced” cook level of complexity – nothing that cannot be done in a typical kitchen.
- The history behind the NCC competition, which starts with great soil to grow stuff in.
- Bios on the Nickel City Chefs: Adam Goetz of Sample, Brian Mietus of Bacchus, JJ Richert of Torches, Krista Van Wagner of Curly’s, and Paul Jenkins of Tempo.
- Backgrounds on hosts radio personality Bert Gambini of WBFO, and Chef Mike Andrzejewski of Seabar.
- Behind the scenes commentary on each of the competitions in the book – there are sixteen and they cover the first three season of the competition.
- A DVD documentary on the food-to-fork movement here in Buffalo along with footage from five NCC competitions. The 50-minute documentary, Nickel City Chef, Food for Change by director Nathan Peracciny, features interviews with chefs, growers and NCC participants.
Recipes come from 20 top restaurants including:
- Bistro Europa
- Blue Monk
- The Mansion on Delaware Avenue
- The Roycroft Inn
- Trattoria Aroma
|Contact info on the secret ingredients is found
in the resource list, as well as other resources
to access the more than 7,500 farms in the
eight counties of Western New York.
The book is published by Buffalo Heritage Press. This is the fourth book I’ve designed for them. Past books include Garden Walk Buffalo; The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, The BPO Celebrates The First 75 Years; and AUDieu, Buffalo says goodbye to the Aud.
Books can be ordered online at Buffalo Heritage Press or you’ll find them in local bookstores, gift shops, Wegmans, area restaurants and other select food-selling operations.