Wow has the Local Wild Food Challenge changed since I went in 2015. Last year, the event found a new home, the FARM Institute, and boy has it grown into quite the event. From talking with event founder, Bill Manson, I think this incredible, one-of-a-kind experience, has found its Island groove.
At the core of this event, only found in four countries, the US (on MV and Hawaii), New Zealand, Italy and Finland, is the talent of people, whether professional or home cooks, to create beautiful dishes with what’s available in their own backyard. Yes, the “freaky” dishes, as Bill likes to call them, are fun, like crickets, but it’s really a food competition to be creative with the Island’s bounty.
I still remember the first Local Wild Food Challenge I attended back in 2012, at the Rod & Gun Club. I loved it. I had no idea how creative people could be with ingredients that I would not even take a second glance at, like fried ants or maple leaf tempura (2014 and was really tasty). People come up with the most amazing dishes.
Another great thing is that the cooking challenge aspect has really grown. You now see a lot more families working together, crafting unique dishes, which means that the week leading up to the challenge has people spending time together, hunting, and foraging for their dish.
I look forward to seeing just what dishes are at this year’s event. What beautiful and freaky local ingredients are used in the competition that really highlights the preciousness and diversity of our Island bounty. You can bet that if there’s a chance to try something really “out there” I will do it.
With most dishes, there are some samples to share with guests. Each year the challenge gets more and more entries. However, if the hyper local foraged and hunted dishes are not your jam, not to worry. Josh Aronie will be there with The Food Truck and the Loco Taco truck. Also, Wash Ashore and Peak Organic will be onsite selling beers, and there will wine available too.
Islander, James Carroll, will be roasting a pig “la caja China,” big in a box. Vineyard Hearth, Patio & Spa, will be cooking up local venison sliders in the Green Egg, the outdoor ceramic kamado style charcoal grill.
Also, word on the street is that Island Cocktail Company will be at the challenge too with some fresh, nonalcoholic out-of-this world cider too. Along with Head High Kombucha which will be there with tastings & bottles of Kombucha for purchase.
In addition to watching contestants plate and cook their dishes, there will be workshops happening all throughout the day, sort of rolling on throughout, not sticking to a hard and fast schedule.
Edgartown School, the FARM Institute, and more will be hosting interactive, fun workshops. The Edgartown School’s Farm and Garden will be pressing cider & highlighting their Colonial Studies and the humble Sunchoke.
Matt Hayden from Lone Scout Survival School will be smoking wild game jerky, plucking & cleaning small game birds & hide tanning – that’s going to be interesting I bet, but probably not for me.
However, the demos are on a schedule which will be up at the challenge. These are going to be very taste specific. For example, how to filet a fish or how to butcher a deer from soup to nuts, which is not for the faint of heart, but important for the core mission of the LWFC which is to really celebrate and embrace local food sources. The demos will be in their own area.
Part of the change of the LWFC is that it has become more like a festival. A lot of people are entering dishes, but there are also a lot of people coming to watch and learn. Families are making an afternoon out of it.
The FARM Institute really lends itself to this change. There’s a lot of open land, there are adorable farm animals throughout and it’s proved to be a great partnership.
Though there is so much going on at the Local Wild Food Challenge, let’s not forget that it’s a cooking challenge. There are 12 categories, pro and amateur, and within those, the criteria is divided into four categories, effort (the story), taste, ingredients, and presentation. All four offer the chance to earn as many as 10 points, for a total of 40 possible points.
This year’s judges are a great, diverse group. There is chef Justin Melnick from The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn, Judy Klumick, the chef from Black Sheep, and Julie Vanderhoop from Orange Peel Bakery. All three of these Island all-star foodies are incredible in their own way, and I can see them having a lot of fun judging the food entries.
The Local Wild Food Challenge Martha’s Vineyard well be held on Sunday, October 22nd, from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the FARM Institute in Katama. To enter, you need to have a least one local ingredient. Don’t forget that kids can enter too.
This event is a true celebration of the land and bounty of Martha’s Vineyard, and a community event unlike any other. For all the rules and enter, click here. Entry is $20.00 for adults, kids are free.