Grilling the Green Way with the Chef’s Collaborative

Chef Sewall of the Eastern Standard's Maine Lobster Sliders (photo: Elizabeth Hathaway)

This past weekend it seemed that all of Boston was abuzz with education about and support of the local food and sustainability movement. First there was the Boston Local Food Festival on Saturday, and then, on Sunday afternoon, the Chef’s Collaborative held their annual fundraiser, Grilling on the Green, in Cambridge.

The Chef’s Collaborative is a national organization that originated in Boston. The collaborative says it identifies chefs as leaders who can inspire investment in the sustainable food supply. They educate chefs on sustainable buying and menu creation with the hopes that an increased presence of local food on restaurant menus will help support local fisheries and farms and then inspire the general public to do the same.

Well, Sunday’s Grilling on the Green fundraiser certainly made a point about a chef’s ability to inspire. Twelve of the Greater Boston restaurant scene’s best know names convened in Cambridge’s Technology Square with samplings of their local food creations. Although weather forced the event off the green and indoors, the bright atrium was lined with the greenness of fresh pairings and combinations. I hate to make you drool all over you computer, but how are these for examples of Sunday’s smorgasbord? — Chef Bettencourt of 62 Resturant and Wine Bar’s Braised Beef Shortribs over Soft Polenta with Gremolata; Chef Duarte of Taranta’s Chica de Jora Grilled Summer Flounder Cerviche topped with Applewood-smoked Cancha Corn; and Chef Edes of Beacon Hill Bistro’s Pear Smoked Pork Sausage with Red Beet Mustard & Turnip Kraut.

Chef Kovel of Catalyst's BBQ Pork Belly with Grilled Scalion & Pickled Green Beans. (photo: Elizabeth Hathaway)

After making my rounds of the room, and multiple rounds past the bread and cheese table featuring Clear Flour Bread and the Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery, I caught up with Melissa Kogut, the Executive Director of the Chef’s Collaborative, who spoke a little bit about the organization’s goals. “We’re not looking for perfection,” she told me, “We want to encourage Chefs to take baby steps. It does take effort to create a sustainable kitchen.” But the key to speeding up that process is, of course, collaboration. “The chefs from our organization learn from each other. They are dedicated— here they are on their Sunday afternoon— and they’re having fun with it.” I had to agree, as Chef Leviton of Area Four’s Maple Pumkins Whoopie Pies were my sweet tooth’s indicator of a good time.

Clear Flour Bread and Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery (photo: ELizabeth Hathaway)

Typically we mistakenly associate exotic ingredients and foreign preparations with a chef’s creativity. And while exotic ingredients flown halfway around the world may certainly inspire creativity, Grilling on the Green reminded me that the best chefs have the ability to create the exotic just by reexamining local food. Take for example Chef Gilson’s Pork Spiedini, and Chef McCarthy of EVOO/Za’s Rabbit Pastrami— I can say, at least,  that the words spiedini and rabbit don’t make a regular appearances in my home cooked meal rotation.

Chef Dumont of Harvest's Grilled Pizza with Fennel Sausage & Verrill Farm Smoked Squash with Goat Cheese & Sage (photo: Elizabeth Hathaway)

Sunday’s event drew a great turnout: over 100 of Boston’s self-declared foodies. The money raised by this fundraiser went to supporting the education of chefs and other leaders in the food industry through workshops and programs, including the third annual National Summit at the end of this month. Kogut also told us to stay tuned for an upcoming Chef’s Collaborative cookbook, which will incorporate sustainable skills and advice alongside recipes featuring local regional ingredients, put together by the best chefs across the country.

While the next Boston Grilling on the Green won’t take place until the height of next year’s Fall harvest, our more southerly located PRK followers should check out the Chef’s Collaborative’s next upcoming fundraiser, an autumn harvest family picnic, on Sunday October 16th in Exeter, Rhode Island.

Chef Duarte's Grilled Summer Flounder Cerviche (photo: Elizabeth Hathaway)