By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Chefs and caterers throughout Oklahoma are invited to compete in the 4th Annual Tree to Table Benefit on Monday, November 6. This unique event will be held at the Farmer’s Public Market, 311 S. Klein Avenue in Oklahoma City.
Competing chefs will be challenged to create a sweet or savory dish that showcases ingredients from trees, such as apples, chocolate, almonds or olives. Other ingredients may be used as well.
The Tree to Table (#Tree2Table) fundraiser will benefit the Oklahoma Orchards and Tornado Re-Leaf, programs of the Tree Bank Foundation.
Each competitor will be given $250 to purchase ingredients. They will all be listed in all press releases, have signage at the event, and an 8-foot table where they can present their dish and promote their business. Chefs must have a catering license, prepare their dish off-site and bring their own serving trays.
Four cash prizes will be awarded at the event. Competition categories include the “Best Savory Dish”, “Best Sweet Dish”, and the “Tree to Table Champion” which will be determined by a panel of judges. Best “Fan Favorite” dish will be decided by event attendees.
The judging panel will be led by celebrity chef and Oklahoma native Rick Bayless, owner/chef of Frontera Fresco in San Francisco and 2009 Bravo Top Chef Masters winner.
Rounding out the panel of judges will be long-time Oklahoma City chef and restaurateur Kurt Fleischfresser, renowned chef and entrepreneur Marc Dunham, and food editor for The Oklahoman newspaper, Dave Cathey.
Previous chef competitors include Barbara Mock of Kam’s Kookery, Kevin Lee of Vast, David Henry of The Coach House, KC Ortega of the Wedge Pizzeria, Christine Dowd of Aunt Pittypat’s, Chase Doyle of Jazmoz Bourbon St. Café, Teresa Walters of Running Wild Catering, and Ryan Parrott of Picasso Café.
“The Tree to Table Benefit is the perfect mix of food, fun and funding a good cause,” said Nicki Largent, Tree Bank Foundation executive director. “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.
“The Tree Bank is working hard to replant the canopy in storm-damaged communities through our Tornado Re-Leaf program,” Largent said.
Oklahoma has an average of 53 tornadoes each year. According to Largent, storms have decimated over 4,000 trees in Oklahoma since 2013.
“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.
“Any nonprofit, church or school or neighborhood association with a public interest can apply for trees,” Largent added.
The Tree Bank Foundation was founded in 1987 by volunteer supporters interested in promoting education, planting, care and beautification of Oklahoma through a network of various organizations and individuals committed to distributing trees.
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.
Chefs interested in entering the 2017 Tree to Table Benefit competition can visit www.thetreebank.org or call 405-702-4050 for more information.
Individual tickets are $75 each or two for $125, which 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 also be available.
VIP tickets are $150 each for the reception at 6 p.m. with Chef Rick Bayless. Participants will receive a VIP “swag” bag, open bar pass, and reserved seating for the main event.
For more information about this event, purchase tickets, or to become a sponsor, visit www.thetreebank.org.