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90.5 WESA reporters look at food issues in the region, including access, school lunch programs, food history, culture and more. Check our collection of stories below.

Food Network-Style Cooking Competition Comes To Green Tree Farmer’s Market

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It’s part Chopped, part Guy Fieri’s Grocery Games, but with a local and educational twist.

Four students from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s culinary program will compete the in the first-ever Farmer’s Market Dash Culinary Challenge at the Green Tree farmer’s market Thursday afternoon.

Academic director and department chair Shawn Culp said students will have to select all of their ingredients – aside from oils and spices – from the offerings available at the market. A “mystery” protein, around which competitors will center their meals, will be revealed at the start of the competition.

“The competitors will then run through the farmer’s market and select their ingredients … and bring them back to their stations and start cooking,” Culp said.

Self-described “farm girl” Sarah Huffman, who grew up in rural Armstrong County, is in her second year of the culinary arts program. She said she has a passion for fresh fruits and vegetables and already has the bulk of her menu planned out.

“I’m making potatoes with onions and peppers as my starch. I’m doing spaghetti squash with zucchini squash, eggplant and tomatoes as my vegetable, and the protein will go with (that),” Huffman said.

Culp said the challenge is a natural extension of an annual competition already held at the school. The four top competitors from this year’s event are participating in the Farmer’s Market Dash, which he said encourages students to think on their feet and practice cooking fundamentals in a high-pressure environment.

Culp said he hopes the event inspires visitors to the farmer’s market to create their own quick, healthy and delicious meals using food sourced from the Pittsburgh region.

“It’s very important that we do this to support the local farmers, to support the local venders,” Culp said. “It just makes sense to use products that are grown in … the vicinity instead of getting vegetables and fruits shipped from California.”

The competition begins at 4:20 p.m. on Thursday at Green Tree Park, 905 Greentree Rd. Winners will be announced at 6:15 p.m.