Local Wild Food Challenge heats up in its eighth year

Chefs and culinary enthusiasts make locally sourced ingredients shine in cooking competition.


The Local Wild Food Challenge was a palatable delight for guests, and a culinary accomplishment for the 44 local and visiting chefs who entered the competition at the FARM Institute in Katama on Saturday. Contestants spent many hours fishing, hunting, and foraging for ingredients along Martha’s Vineyard coastline, searching under scrub oak, and wading through marshy swamps.

This year’s grand prize winner was Jimmy Alvarado, the new chef at Isola in Edgartown. His dish “Into the Woods,” featured cured venison with juniper berries, autumn olive coulis, pickled wild rosehips, roasted Queen Anne’s lace, and chicken of the woods mushrooms.

The event was organized by Bill and Sarah Manson, who travel the world challenging different communities to create amazing dishes from their region’s bounty. They were excited to bring the competition to the FARM Institute for the first time.

“We got back to the roots of community-based farming this year,” Mr. Manson said. “It’s been funky and lovely seeing the piglets running around [next to the kitchen]. We really wanted to get back to this farm environment.”

Morning Glory Farm, Head High Kombucha, and the Edgartown School had booths offering samples of local food and drink. Morning Glory served microgreens and amaranth, which could be added to any of the tasting dishes. Edgartown School made tortillas and salsa from corn and tomatoes grown in their greenhouse. The Edgartown-based company Head High Kombucha made their public debut as the Island’s first kombucha company, with samples of orange and apple kombucha.

2016 Local Wild Food Challenge Winners

Grand Prize: Jimmy Alvarado, “Into the Woods,” Cured Venison with Juniper Berries and Autumn Olive Coulis, Pickled Wild Rosehips, Roasted Queen Anne’s Lace, Chicken of the Woods braised with Mugwort, Goldenrod Flowers, and Lemon Sorrel, served on a homemade cedar board.

Wildest Ingredient: Albert Lattanzi, Wild Bear, Elk, and Venison Meatballs, Kelp Caviar, Silversides and Smoked Cod Foie Gras.

Best Effort: Everett Whiting, “Wild Tasting,” Lobster Chowder with Bay Scallop, Wild Mallard Breast with Salad of Sorrel and Greenwinged Teal Confit, Amaranth and Dandelion Greens, Venison Backstrap, Wild Watercress Salad, Maitake Mushrooms, Sunchokes, Wild Grape Wine Sauce, Wild Irish Moss Pudding with Raw Local Honey, Raw Local Milk and Wild Cranberry Compote.

Best Use of Local Ingredient: Tyler Gibson, “Up, Down and All Around,” Sumac Sorbet Venison Loin with Wild Apple and Cranberry Butter, Hen of the Woods, Wild Watercress, Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin, Confit of Mallard Duck wrapped in Cape Pogue Scallop, Chestnut Polenta.

Best Story: Casey Eason, Assorted Jellies — Montauk Daisy, Nasturtium, Fox Grape, Crab Apple Rosemary, Kombucha and Orange Zest.

Best from the Water: John Thurgood, Menemsha Silversides brined and fried, Smoked Butterfish, Scup with Rosehips, Soft-Shelled Green Crab, Dogfish, pickled, fried and stewed with Tomato and Herbs.

Best from the Land: Meg Athearn, Sautéed Hen of the Woods, Watercress, Cattail Root, Sedgenut & Autumn Olive Salad, Feral Apple Pheasant Confit, Pickled Roots, Swamp Maple Bourbon Smash, Olive Oil Ice Cream with Beach Plum Syrup, Digestive Bitters.

Best on the Wing: Hal Ryerson, Wild Chestnut and Local Duck Tortellini, Foraged Mushrooms, Local Brussel Sprouts and Honeynut Squash, Spring Green Strawberry and Autumn Olive Gastrique.

Best Dessert: Sarah Waldman, Concord Grape Jam Bars with Rosemary.

Best Drink: Doriana Klumick, a cocktail of Island-grown Concord Grapes and Island-Made Vodka.

Caroline Johnstone Award (Most Intriguing): Nils Leaf and Jill Riedell, Spicy Smoked Yellowfin Tuna Benedict made with Local Duck Eggs.

Junior Challenge

Grand Prize: Brooke Ward, 10 years old, Seared Local Tuna with Avocado and Asian Dressing, Lemon Leaf and Jalapeñno from Edgartown School garden, homegrown edible flowers.

Runner-up: Zeb Athearn, 8 years old, Smoked Bluefish Taco with Sunchoke Chips, Watercress, and Wild Onion.

Best Effort: Clara Athearn, 10 years old, Wild Pheasant braised with Foraged Apples, Watercress Salad with Lobster and Sea Pickles, Sassafras and Sumac Tea.