Thursday, October 18, 2012

Food Day delivers tasty message

The Iron Chef gang: from left, Carol Lewis, Chuck Lemke, Michael Castellini, Dave Sikorski, Nancy Tarnai, Frank Eagle, Jennifer Jolis, Jerry Evans, Tony Tillery
The Food Day celebration at UAF Oct. 17 carried a strong message about the value of Alaska grown food: it's tasty, wonderful and good for you.

The day kicked off with the competitors in the Iron Chef Cookoff slaving over a common stove in the Wood Center kitchen. Carol Lewis, dean of the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, and Michael Castellini, dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, battled to proclaim their prowess in the kitchen. The surf vs. turf challenge found Lewis preparing reindeer and Castellini serving up halibut cheeks.

Lewis was assisted by professional chef Jennifer Jolis of the Community and Technical College's culinary school, and Castellini's helper was Dave Sikorski, head chef for NANA Management Services, the company that manages all dining services at UAF.

At 11 a.m., the teams had 20 minutes to plate up their specialties in front of a live audience in the Wood Center lounge area. Judges were from the Midnight Sun Chefs Association: Chuck Lemke, Tony Tillery and Frank Eagle. Judging was based on appearance, taste, locally grown and other factors.

Throughout the event, Jerry Evans of KUAC kept everything lively as the emcee.

In the end, "Team Halibut" won the competition but the judges admitted it was a really tough decision.
Michael Castellini preparing food in the Wood Center kitchen.

"I was a little worried in the beginning of this whole thing," said Jolis. She ended up enjoying the cookoff immensely.

Asked if it helped to have the professional chefs on their side, both Lewis and Castellini said it was a definite bonus. "It's the only way," Castellini said. "We'd be lost without them," Lewis said.

Iron Chef judges confer. From left, Frank Eagle, Tony Tillery, Chuck Lemke.
Lemke said the chefs of the Midnight Sun Chefs Association are behind the idea of sustainable and locally grown foods. Judging the cookoff was hard work, he said. "We had the responsibility to do the best job possible."

While Castellini and Sikorski got the birch spatulas all the judges went home with fresh lettuce and microgreens from Johnson Family Farm.

Nannette Pearson (center) was the winner of the UAF Anthropology Society's 4 Carrot Film Festival. At Food Day, she was awarded a basket of locally grown food, plus two chubs of grass-fed Angus beef from the Matanuska Experiment Farm. At left is Carol Lewis, dean of SNRAS and director of the Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station. At right is Azara Mohammadi of the Anthropology Society and film festival coordinator.
Next on the agenda was the presentation of the prize for the best food film produced in the UAF Anthropology Society's 4 Carrot Film Festival. Nannette Pearson won for her film, "The Great Alaskan Berry Hunt."

From left, Martha Westphal, Jeopardy Game coordinator, Shelley Cotton, SFOS grad student, Benjamin Rance, SNRAS grad student and Thomas Grant, emcee.
The Food Jeopardy game pitted graduate students Shelley Cotton (SFOS) and Benjamin Rance (SNRAS) against professors Stephen Sparrow (SNRAS) and Alexandra Oliveira (SFOS). Emcee Thomas Grant, a SNRAS post-doctoral researcher, challenged the contestants with questions about agriculture, nutrition and fisheries in Alaska.

The graduate students won, and were rewarded with "Nooks with Hooks" sweatshirts donated by SFOS. Consolation prizes of lettuce and herbs went to the professors.

Spencer Douthit of Calypso Farm and Ecology Center presented information about growing local food and school garden programs.
Meanwhile, throughout the day over 20 educational exhibits about food, healthy lifestyles, agriculture and nutrition were on display. Participating were:

Alaska Center for Natural Medicine
Alaska Grown
Alaska Youth for Environmental Action
Calypso Farm and Ecology Center
Chena Fresh/Chena Hot Springs Resort (provided tomato basil soup)
UAF Cooperative Extension Service
Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market
Farm to School
Growing Ester's Biodiversity
Johnson Family Farm
UAF Rural Nutrition Services
UAF Student Counseling & Health Center
UAF Reindeer Research Program
UAF Anthropology Society (petition for local food on campus; to sign the petition, contact Azara Mohammadi)

Beets looked beautiful under the skilled hands of Dining Services staff.
UAF Dining Services prepared local food for the Taste of Alaska buffet. Over 200 people sampled the delicious items made from barley flour donated by Alaska Flour Co.; cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes from Chena Fresh; apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, spaghetti squash from the Fairbanks Experiment Farm; beef from the Matanuska Experiment Farm; cold-smoked sockeye salmon filets from SFOS's research facility in Kodiak.

Nationally, Food Day is celebrated Oct. 24, but UAF got a jump on the event due to scheduling conflicts.

The Food Day Principles
1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
2. Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness
3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
5. Promote health by curing junk food marketing to kids
6. Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

Further reading:

UAF marks Food Day with full menu of events, Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Oct. 18,2012, by Mary Beth Smetzer

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