Community News Service
On Sept. 1, Shelburne Farms Chef Tim Fox found himself cooking before an audience not in his familiar kitchen at the Shelburne Farms Inn, but at the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction.
About a dozen and a half people gathered in the Ware Building at the Champlain Valley Expo to observe and enjoy Fox’s signature recipe titled, “The Amazing Chef Tim’s Famous BLT Tagliatelle.”
“It’s kind of a spin on a BLT sandwich in pasta form,” Fox said.
The dish featured homemade pasta, bacon, garlic, and Cherokee purple tomatoes, prepared using only local ingredients.
“Everything was from Shelburne Farms except the flour, which is Nitty Gritty flour from Vermont, and then the eggs we have are from Shadow Cross Farm, so it is all local products,” Fox explained.
The secret to this recipe is using fresh bacon and some of the pasta cooking water to create a light, rich sauce.
“The fat from the bacon and starch from the fresh pasta emulsify to bind the sauce really well,” Fox said. “It’s a simple trick and this way nothing is wasted.”
This recipe was a bit different from the recipes the chef has previously demonstrated at the fair.
“This is my third time at the fair. I made a chicken breakfast sausage two years ago,” Fox recalled. “That’s what we serve at the Inn at Shelburne Farms for breakfast.”
Shelburne Farms Chef Emeritus Jim McCarthy explained that the farm staff participates in the cooking demos at the fair and intentionally shares recipes from dishes served at the iconic inn as a way to connect with the community. They choose recipes that people love and visit the inn for as a way to explain their overall mission.
“We were able to touch on how we operate as an inn and restaurant inside such an organization, letting the garden drive our farm-to-table menu, working with whole animals and the complexity of our waste stream,” McCarthy said.
The demonstrations are quite popular at the fair, attracting anywhere from five to 50 people at each sitting. This year, the schedule had three demos per day.
In addition to connecting with the community, McCarthy said the demos are a learning opportunity for his chefs.
“Each chef has at least four years of experience working in professional kitchens,” he said. “Public speaking is far from most culinary professionals’ forte, so I like to think that by pushing them outside of their comfort zone they can grow as individuals and help their career.”
Shelburne Farms is all about using local ingredients in its meals to encourage sustainability and support local farmers. The fair demonstrations show how simple it is to practice this philosophy to create local, homemade meals that are not time-consuming and expensive, McCarthy said.
And it’s not difficult for McCarthy to get volunteers to staff the events, either.
“Most of the chefs jump at the opportunity to spend a day at the fair,” he said. “The cooking demos only take up a part of the day, and they are free to enjoy the fair on their own.”
Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.