By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Chefs and caterers throughout Oklahoma are invited to compete in the 2nd Annual Tree to Table Benefit on Monday, October 19. This epicurean event challenges competitors to create a sweet or savory dish that incorporates ingredients from trees, such as apples, chocolate, almonds or olives. Other ingredients may be used as well.
The competition will take place at the Oklahoma City Farmer’s Public Market.
Head Judge will be Oklahoma native celebrity chef Rick Bayless, the owner/chef of Frontera Fresco in San Francisco and 2009 Bravo Top Chef Masters winner. Judging along with Bayless, will be long-time Oklahoma City chef John Bennett, and Dave Cathey, food editor of The Oklahoman newspaper.
Tickets to the VIP reception with Chef Bayless at 5:30 p.m. are $150 each. Tickets include a VIP “swag” bag, open bar pass and reserved seating for the main event.
Individual tickets, which are $75 each or two for $100, provide entry to the event at 6:30 p.m. to sample all the chef’s creations and one drink ticket. A cash bar will be available. The awards presentation will be held at 7:30 p.m.
The chefs must have a catering license, prepare their dish off-site and bring their own chafing dishes or serving trays.
Four cash prizes will be awarded at the event, including the Fan Favorite, which will be chosen by event attendees. The judging panel will allocate the Best Savory Dish, Best Sweet Dish and the Tree to Table Champion.
Current competitors include Barbara Mock and Michelle Wicks of Kam’s Kookery, Kevin Lee of Vast, David Henry of The Coach House, Dave Leibold of the Metro Wine Bar and Bistro, KC Ortega of the Wedge Pizzeria, Christine Dowd of Aunt Pittypat’s, Chase Doyle of Jazmoz Bourbon St. Café, Melissa Aust of Stella Modern Italian Cuisine, Teresa Walters of Running Wild Catering, and the 2014 Tree to Table Champion Ryan Parrott of Picasso Café.
Each competitor will be given $250 to purchase ingredients, listing in all press releases and signage at the event and an 8-foot table on which to serve their dish and promote their business.
Last year approximately 150 guests sampled thirteen delectable dishes from a list of local competitors and voted on their Fan Favorite.
Proceeds from the Tree to Table event will benefit the Oklahoma Orchards and Tornado Re-Leaf programs of the Tree Bank Foundation.
“The Tree to Table Benefit is the perfect mix of food, fun and funding a good cause,” said Largent. “I am extremely excited about this year’s event because we have amazing judges and we already have so many talented chefs signing up. I simply cannot wait to see the dishes these chefs create.”
Oklahoma has an average of 53 tornadoes annually. This results in severe damage to local trees.
Through the Tornado Re-Leaf program, the Tree Bank Foundation raises funds for trees to replace those lost in the storm.
According to Largent, storms have decimated an estimated 4,000 trees in Oklahoma since 2013.
“The Tree Bank is working hard to replant the canopy in storm-damaged communities through our Tornado Re-Leaf program,” she said. “If you would like to help with this effort we will have a volunteer tree planting day on Saturday, November 7.”
The organization has planted trees in Moore, El Reno, Shawnee and Oklahoma City.
“Any non profit, church or school or neighborhood association with a public interest can also apply for trees,” Largent added.
“Oklahoma Orchards is one of my favorite programs because it shows how trees can have a direct effect on quality of life,” Largent stated. “The Tree Bank is so thrilled to help organizations like the Salvation Army and Regional Food Bank feed the hungry in a healthy, sustainable way.”
Organizations interested in benefitting from an Oklahoma Orchard can contact the Tree Bank Foundation at 405-702-4050.
The Tree Bank Foundation was founded in 1987 with a mission “to promote and plant trees to enrich Oklahoma communities”.
The value of the more than 220,000 trees brought to the state through the Tree Bank has been estimated to be more than $240 million at maturity.
To enter the Tree to Table event or for more information regarding tickets and sponsorships, visit www.thetreebank.org.