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Cooking with Saskatchewan's Best

By: Penny Eaton, Communications & Industry Relations, Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan

Chef Darren Craddock plates his creation in the final
moments of the head-to-head chef competition in 2015
For more than 20 years, people have been coming down to Kiwanis Memorial Park along the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon to enjoy tasty bites from more than 30 restaurants. The annual Taste of Saskatchewan food and music festival currently attracts almost 100,000 people and is estimated to generate approximately $1.2 million in food sales.

In 2015, the event promoter, SaskTel Centre, began exploring ideas to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the festival. The result was the Farm & Food Care Chef’s Series.

SaskTel Centre teamed up with the local chefs’ association and Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan (FFC SK) to organize an on-stage competition similar to the popular TV program ‘Chopped’, with the province’s top chefs preparing innovative dishes from fresh, Saskatchewan-grown ingredients.

“The response to our first year was fantastic,” recalled Adele Buettner of FFC SK. “People loved the excitement of the live culinary competitions combined with learning about the amazing food we grow in this province.”

The Chef’s Series is back for its second year and will run from July 12-17, 2016 during the Taste of Saskatchewan festival presented by Conexus Credit Union.

Interest was so high in 2015 that this year, twice as many chefs will go head-to-head each day at 12 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The winners from each culinary competition will move on to the next round, with the finalists battling for the title of “Top Chef Saskatchewan” on Sunday, July 17 at 12 p.m. The winner takes home a brand new barbecue, a trophy and bragging rights.

The Chef’s Series Stage will also feature chef demonstrations at 5 p.m. each day from July 12-15 in which renowned chefs will explain how they cook with Saskatchewan ingredients and invite the audience to sample their creations. Donations of cash or tickets will be accepted for the Saskatoon Food Bank for these food samples.

During the stage show, local media representatives keep the action going and share information about food and farming with the audience. Those who listen closely are often successful at winning prizes for answering fun farm and food trivia questions.

A new element this year will be a chance for festival-goers to interact with real farmers and ranchers. “Meet a Farmer” Day will be held on Saturday, July 16 during the semi-final chef competitions. Farmers will be on hand to answer questions, facilitate activities and take part in the fun.

“The Chef’s Series is a great way for our farmers to interact directly with a primarily urban audience that is interested in their food,” Buettner said, noting that there are few such opportunities available.

“This event not only offers great entertainment, but it’s a celebration of our awesome culinary talent and the first-class food we produce in Saskatchewan.”

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