COLUMBIA — Three local chefs had 50 minutes, a bag of local ingredients and an outdoor kitchen to create a unique, Food Network-style dish Saturday evening.
Craig Cyr of The Wine Cellar and Bistro, Aaron Wells-Morgan of Les Bourgeois Vineyards and Jina Yoo of Jina Yoo's Asian Bistro competed in an Iron Chef Competition on Saturday night as part of the third-annual Taste of the Market, a fundraiser for the Columbia Farmers' Market Pavilion. The competition was held at the traditional location of the Columbia Farmers' Market, near the Activity and Recreation Center.
Each chef was given an identical mishmash of ingredients that included rainbow trout, zucchini blossoms, Japanese eggplant and Missouri peaches. The end results, however, varied widely.
Highlights from the three chefs' creations included a rainbow trout skin "tortilla" chip inside a homemade soft taco, a peach-and-citrus bellini and a green tea-battered rainbow trout.
Five judges examined the dishes on three points on a scale of one to five: presentation, originality and flavor. Despite the judges submitting their ballots independently, the competition ended in a three-way tie.
Judge positions for the contest and the opportunity to serve as a sous-chef were auctioned off at a small, private "Appeteazer" fundraiser earlier this summer. Also participating was Mayor Bob McDavid, who served as the panel's celebrity judge Saturday night.
"Being mayor is a tough job," McDavid said. "I am being forced to eat free food from the best chefs in Columbia."
The addition of the competition was one of several changes to this year's event.
"We were a little folksier last year," said Casey Corbin, executive director of the event's sponsor, Sustainable Farms and Communities. He estimated between 500 and 600 people attended this year, compared to last year, where 3,300 people attended.
Attendees of this year's Taste of the Market were met with shorter lines and live music: La Movida, The Rambling Daniels and The Bubbas performed on a new stage added by organizers this year.
In 2009, Taste of the Market ran out of food within the first couple hours, according to a previous Missourian article. Last year, attendees sampled finger foods from different chefs in Columbia, but this year, after an increase in the event's prices, they received full plates, cooked on site.
The plates included corn on the cob, "fancy" slaw and a hamburger, bratwurst or a vegetarian option. Honey ice cream from Walk-About Acres was also available, as was wine from Les Bourgeois and beer from Broadway Brewery. All of the food, including the ingredients in the Iron Chef Competition, came from local producers.
Organizers also auctioned off dinners with local chefs.
In addition to raising money for the Columbia Farmers' Market Pavilion and Education Center, Taste of the Market also helps fund programs such as Access to Healthy Foods, which hopes to double the value of food stamps at the market to allow more people to afford fresh, local produce.
In an address to a crowd seated on hay bales and plastic chairs, organizer Judy Baker lauded the new pavilion, which is expected to permanently house the Columbia Farmers' Market.
"This is going to be a destination place for the city of Columbia and mid-Missouri," she said.