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JJC students to serve up locally grown food

Dinner to showcase farmers' products, students' talents

Published: Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

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JOLIET, Ill. – The Joliet Junior College Culinary Arts Department will feature produce and meats from local Illinois farmers Sept. 28 in a new event called the Farm-to-Fork Market Dinner. The event will be held outside the Campus Center cafeteria on the Main Campus, 1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet.

JJC student chefs will prepare the five-course meal, beginning with hors d’oeuvres and beverages at 4 p.m., but patrons are invited to come as early as 3:30 p.m. for a meet and greet with the farmers.

Only 200 tickets are available, so reservations should be made as soon as possible by calling Dori Miller at (815) 280-2255. Tickets cost $75 per person.

Culinary Chair Mike McGreal said the vast majority of the evening’s meal would consist of local food from no more than 250 miles away – from lettuce harvested at the JJC Greenhouse to craft beers brewed in Chicago and meats from naturally raised animals in central Illinois. Only a small percentage of other ingredients, such as flour and fish, would come from a further distance.

McGreal said the food for the Farm-to-Fork Market Dinner is coming from producers who enforce sustainable production practices on their farms, businesses or aquaculture.

One farm that still raises livestock in the same way that they did in 1888 is donating food for the event.

“We’re very excited to be featuring amazingly high quality farm-raised and hormone-free beef and pork products from Slagel Family Farm in Fairbury, Illinois,” McGreal said. “The farmer, Louis John Slagel, is even a graduate of the JJC agriculture program and is donating beef and pork products to support the culinary arts students and faculty.”

Because produce grows at its own speed, the menu will be a surprise, according to McGreal, although diners can expect a family-style salad course; grilled, roasted and slow-cooked meat courses; poultry and salmon courses; and a dessert course.

McGreal said this event will teach student chefs – the area’s future cooks and restaurateurs – that fresh food is always better than anything that comes prepackaged or out of season.

“Think about trucking things across the country, flying food across the globe,” McGreal said. “Local farmers are right here – not these giant producers. By supporting them, we support our own community. We keep families healthier.

“We aren’t doing anything to have a negative impact on the environment and neither are these farmers and producers we are honoring with this dinner. When a community is strong and supports other members of our own community, the whole community prospers.”

Events like the Farm-to-Fork Market Dinner also help the JJC Culinary Arts Department by providing money for student scholarships and faculty professional development. $50 from each ticket purchased will go toward those funds.

The farmers meet-and-greet, taking place at 3:30 p.m., is open to the public and will give guests a chance to mingle with some of the farmers who will have their products on the evening’s menu.

Guests will get the chance to ask questions and purchase their own fresh food. Other vendors, who appear regularly at the JJC Farmers Market, will also be at the meet-and-greet.

For more information about the Farm-to-Fork Market Dinner, or to make a reservation, call Dori Miller at (815) 280-2255.

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