Local restaurants will vie for the top spot in a friendly face-off highlighting fresh produce on Sept. 19.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County will host its ninth annual Fresh Food Face Off where chefs will create various dishes featuring locally sourced ingredients and locally grown produce. With funding from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, chefs choose ingredients from the Broome County Regional Farmers Market and prepare a meal to compete for the Best Taste and People’s Choice awards. Local dignitaries will serve as judges for the food, and guests can vote for their favorite dishes, too.
The event is the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s annual fundraiser, which helps the educational organization network and conduct research in tandem with Cornell University to improve the lives of Broome Country residents.
Beth Roberts, grants/contracts administrator for Cornell Cooperative Extension, said the event’s idea was inspired by the growing importance of local produce.
“We really wanted to highlight our local food system that we have here in Broome County,” Roberts said.
Others have also recognized the significance of Broome County’s food system. Jay Pisculli, chef and partner at Social on State and Craft, has participated in the event for over seven years and said the event is unique because it displays how much effort goes into making one meal.
“People don’t think about what goes into a plate of food,” Pisculli said. “Somebody had to grow that vegetable, somebody had to pick that vegetable, somebody had to bring it to the farmers market, somebody had to cook it — there’s lot of things that go into one dish of food that people don’t think about and this sort of shows how it all comes together.”
Among the restaurants competing are Craft, Number 5 Restaurant, Thai Time, Social on State, The Colonial and other Binghamton favorites. Some of the competition’s past winners are Social on State, Remlik’s and Binghamton University Dining Services.
Originally a formal cooking contest, the event has transformed into a friendly competition that focuses on the community. Roberts said much of the event’s success is due to its positive impact on local businesses.
“It’s just fun because not only are we highlighting the market for local food, but we’re really highlighting these places of business and I think that’s why we have so much success,” Roberts said.
Pisculli agreed and said that winning the Fresh Food Face Off helps restaurants gain some recognition.
“There really aren’t too many competitions that directly put the chefs against each other in this town, so I think if you come out on top there is some prestige to it,” Pisculli said.
Along with the competition, there will be desserts from local restaurants and tastings from wineries and breweries. This year, the event is going to be an hour longer and will add the Cutler Botanic Garden and Agriculture Development Center to the venue.
Although the event was designed to raise money, Roberts said it also aims to give people a new perspective of Broome County.
“It’s a night out for … people to really see their community maybe in a different light,” Roberts said. “We have such a beautiful community, that the more we can have opportunities to showcase it, the better.”
The Fresh Food Face Off will take place on Sept. 19 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Broome County Regional Farmers Market, located at 840 Front St. in Binghamton. Tickets are $50 per person or $90 per couple.