Things heated up at the Evanston Farmers’ Market Truck to Table benefit on Sept. 23. With temperatures reaching into the 90s, it felt more like a summer barbecue than a harvest celebration. But that did not stop the chefs, farmers, and community members from coming out to support the Market and its educational outreach programs, including the Spud Club, a program directed at educating the younger generation about the benefits of supporting local farmers’ markets.
Nell Funk, founder of Evanston’s NWC Food Incubator, has collaborated with the Farmers’ Market for the past eight years to host the event that features the unique partnership between prominent Midwest sustainable growers and local chefs. The benefit was originally held at the NWC space at 1601 Payne St., but three years ago, in order to highlight the 40th anniversary of the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market, Ms. Funk and the benefit committee decided to host the event at the Market during regular hours.
"We wanted to create a more casual dining experience," said Ms. Funk. " It had always been a white tablecloth event held on a Thursday night, but many of the farmers were unable to attend, as they often live several hours away."
This year, 13 local chefs were stationed next to the tent of their paired farm. The chefs used fresh ingredients from their partnered farm to create a small dish. Guests who paid for the event were given tickets to roam the Market and select dishes plated by the chefs.
Some of the notable local chefs who participated this year include Chef Eric Mansavage of Farmhouse, Chef Brian Houston of Boltwood, Chef Sandy Chen of Koi and Chef Elio Romero of Chef’s Station. The committee also made an effort to include some of the newer restaurants in town such as Chef Monika Tantichula of NaKorn. She partnered with Henry’s Farm to create a traditional Thai dish, galangal-infused kabocho-coconut soup with chicken.
Chef Debbie Evans of Peckish Pig, who worked with JW Morlock and Girls Farm to create an almond pound cake with roasted peaches and crème fraiche, said this event is a rare opportunity for her to get out of the kitchen and into the community.
"It’s a very social event," Ms. Evans said. "As a chef, it’s important to get to know the people in the community who are coming to eat in my restaurant. "
Chef Nicole Pederson of Found and The Barn worked with Green Acres Farm to create a roasted eggplant panzanella with red pimento, beans, chilies, and sourdough bread from Hewn Bakery.
"The Evanston Farmers’ Market is in many ways the center of the community," she said. "This is my third year participating, and it really is a wonderful event that brings everyone together."
Ms. Funk said despite the unusually warm temperatures, it was a successful day. "With so much produce to choose from in the fall, it’s a great time of year to celebrate the Farmers’ Market."