I’m totally going out of order. I did indeed take some photos during our trip to the state fair last Saturday, but right now I want to share photos from Sunday afternoon’s big event.
The Piedmont Culinary Guild is a new organization Miss Chef was asked to be a founding member of earlier this year. It comprises mostly chefs, and their mission is to elevate awareness of local food sources for restaurants and educate the dining public about them. This was their first big event, a fundraising effort to support a farmers’ fund sponsored by the local chapter of Slow Food.
This was a competition among chefs, but not like your typical “secret ingredient” cookoff. No, this was a carve-off! Almost 20 area chefs entered to compete for pride, public exposure, bragging rights and $100 cash. They had two hours to carve their own pumpkins, while the public was invited to watch, mingle, drink local beer, eat popcorn, and vote for their favorites.
Miss Chef “invited” me to volunteer, so I showed up an hour early to set up tents, string lights, duct tape cords and direct traffic. The carving began at precisely 4 pm, and though I was stuck at the side entrance for a while, and was hawking activity tickets, I did have plenty of time to circulate and see how things were going.
Some chefs used the traditional approach, with stencils and Halloween themes…
Some did nontraditional themes that showcased their skills. This is a student from Miss Chef’s school, who is from Thailand. He was was assisting another Chef Instructor from the school.
While she worked in a more typical stance, he made himself comfortable and delved into his work.
Chef Adam was competing too. I joked with him a bit, but he was atypically serious at times.
Then there were those chefs who really went all out. One showed up with a monster---wish I’d been there to see them lift that up onto the table!
Another had a multi-pumpkin storyline going on…
There was a pretty good crowd gathered, and it was a great, kid-friendly event with face-painting, tattoos, a picture booth and a kids’ carving competition, too. It was held at Atherton Market, a farmers’ market housed in an old cotton mill in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood.
Each chef was given a market stall to work. Some of them shared space. Many brought candy…to tilt the judges in their favor, perhaps.
Have you noticed the orange jack o’lantern buckets on each chef’s table?
That was for the public to vote for their favorite pumpkins. They could buy raffle tickets at $1 a pop and drop them into their chef’s bucket. One person bought 40 tickets at one go! In addition, after the votes were tallied, one ticket was selected from each bucket, and that person won that chef’s carved masterpiece to take home for their very own.
By six o’clock, several of the chefs had already finished.
Then the call went out for knives down, and the lights were turned off so the jack o’lanterns could shine.
Which one would you vote for?
El día de los muertos?
A beautiful flower?
Old Man Winter?
A cannibalistic cyclops? (There was a dry ice mist floating out through the mouth.)
A belligerent Yoda?
Or perhaps a prickle of hedgehogs?
I’ll tell you the winner in the comments, but I’ll tell you here that it’s not the one I would have voted for. As it was, the tickets had to be counted three times to be sure, as the margin of victory was only seven points!
The Guild hasn’t had time yet to count up the proceeds, but I hope soon to learn how much money was raised for Slow Food Charlotte. The lead organizer had counted on this being a one-time event, but everyone I talked to was already looking forward to next year. Looks like the Guild just might have a new tradition on their hands!