Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Florida Chefs Delight Farm-To-Table Style at Small Farms Conference, Kissimmee, Fla.

Four prominent Florida farm-to-table chefs gathered in Kissimmee, Florida, this July to meet farmers. They gave up a Saturday night of sales to cater the Small Farms & Alternative Enterprises Conference. They were looking forward to the advertised "networking event to make new acquaintances," where they planned to make business deals with new farmers.

Chef Dak of Pizzeria Oceano, in prep-kitchen
 at 2012 Small Farms Conference, Kissimmee, Fla.

Chef David A. Kerprich, who prefers to go by Dak, of Pizzeria Oceano restaurant (Lantana, Fla.) sources local Florida ingredients for his pizzas. "It's amazingly hard to source locally in this area. You have to be committed to it. The reason I came, was to source local ingredients better," said Chef Dak. He travelled over four hours to get to the event.

Pickled Florida Sturgeon fish dish from
 Pizzeria Oceano at 2012 Small Farms Conference,
Kissimmee, Fla.
He had a French bread slice stacked with pickled Sturgeon (Sarasota sourced), drizzled with smoked cream, topped with Lake Meadow Naturals sourced herbs, and crowned with Florida pickled beets. He also had a Florida mango salad (from Kiss-Im-Mee's Green Place Farm and Chef Dak's garden, Fla.) that went so fast I was not able to get a picture.
Chef Tony Adams, Big Wheel Provisions, serves devilled
style Lake Meadow Naturals eggs, 2012 Small Farms
Conference, Kissimmee, Fla.
Florida pork belly & avocado on
sticky rice, Big Wheel Provisions,
2012 Small Farms Conference,
Kissimmee, Fla.
Chef Tony Adams of Big Wheel Provisions (Orlando, Fla.) makes a point of including at least one Florida ingredient in every dish he serves. "Local sourcing is a huge reason why we are here. There's going to be so many producers here. It's like a toy store," said Chef Adams. He brought his whole food truck into the dining hall.

He served six different styles of devilled eggs made with 12-hour old Lake Meadow Naturals (Ocoee, Fla.) eggs. He also had a sticky rice dish made with deep fried Florida sourced pork's belly, sesame, and Florida avocado.

Chef Darwin Santa Maria, Darwin's On 4th, in prep-kitchen
at 2012 Small Farms Conference, Kissimmee, Fla.

Florida rock shrimp and Peruvian
mashed potato dish from Darwin's
On 4th, 2012 Small Farms
Conference, Kissimmee, Fla.
Peruvian Chef Darwin Santa Maria of Darwin's on 4th Restaurant and Brewery (Sarasota, Fla.) is a relative newcomer to the Florida farm-to-table restaurant scene. He is currently working with a Florida farmer who is growing some Peruvian ingredients.
Travelling over two hours, he was looking forward to networking with more Florida farmers at the evening's event.

He served a delicious Peruvian mashed potato dish topped with Florida rock shrimp, tangy Kalamata olive sauce, and Florida micro-greens. He also had a Florida sourced beef dish and some craft beers.

Chef Greg Baker, Refinery Restaurant, serves pulled
pork dish to 2012 Small Farms Conference attendee,
Kissimmee, Fla.
Chef Greg Baker of The Refinery Restaurant (Tampa, Fla.) travelled over three hours to get to the event, getting caught in Highway-4 traffic on the way.

He sources from a lot of Florida farmers but when he can't, he sources from sustainable providers. He came to event to support local farmers. He served a delicious Florida alligator Ceviche and a pulled pork dish.

As the dining hall doors opened, attendees poured in, and music from a live band started. The food was wonderful but the volume of the music was not. It was too loud and drowned out any possibility of conversation between the chefs and the farmers.

At the end of the evening, I asked the chefs if they planned to return next year and most said only if their schedules permitted it.

To find out about the 2012 and upcoming Small Farms and Alternative Enterprise Conferences you can go to

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