[Written by Cynthia Schuster Eakin]
Fri 4/21 @ 6PM
The Vegan Iron Chef Competition, a headline event for the annual “Who’s Your Mama?” Earth Day and Environmental Film Festival in Kent, is now in its eleventh year and growing.
“I have friends who are vegan. One day, we started talking about how a vegan diet is really helpful to the earth. Growing plants uses much less methane than growing cattle. So, we came up with this event that coincides with Earth Day,” Jeff Ingram, executive director of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, explained. Standing Rock is one of the sponsors of the April 21 event, along with the Kent Natural Foods Co-op and Seven Grains Market. The purpose of the competition is to educate the public about the personal health and ecological benefits of a vegan diet.
Area restaurants and caterers are encouraged to prepare vegan dishes that highlight local produce and provide an alternative to a meat-based diet. The main competition is a three-hour event. Chefs cook and present sample plates and one full presentation plate. The food they create will be samples for the audience to taste. Local purveyors are invited to set up and offer samples of their vegan goods as well. Standing Rock Cultural Arts provides the produce for the competition, along with a mystery ingredient. This year’s mystery ingredient is hemp hearts. Judging is based on flavor, presentation, use of locally grown and organic food, originality and use of the highlighted ingredient.
Competitors in the 2017 contest include two-time Vegan Iron Chef winner Don King, past Vegan Iron Chef winner Molly Aubochon, Stow Farmer’s Market Director Mike Osman, Hannah Knapp of the Kent Natural Foods Co-op, and the team of Carl Bauer and Stacey Lasher of Grazer’s in Kent. The judges are Maurice Drake, former owner of Peaceable Kingdom Bakery, Chef Rich Rhodes of the Mustard Seed Market Café and Rockne Becker of Rock Fresh Catering.
The Vegan Iron Chef Competition takes place from 6-9pm in Kent’s United Church of Christ Van Meter Hall. Reservations are accepted and a contribution of $20 per seat is suggested. Phone 330-673-4970 or visit whosyourmama.org. Earth Day festivities conclude on Sat 4/22 with a downtown parade and a Main Street block party with eco vendors, eco heroes and poems from The Tree.
According to Ingram, more and more people are becoming vegan and vegetarian. “There is an awareness of this going on in the food industry,” he noted. Ingram said he has done a lot of reading and research about veganism and about ways to get the right amount of protein, iron and B vitamins while following a vegan diet. When asked if he himself is totally vegan, Ingram noted, “I still like to eat cheese and pizza.”