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Foodie Events / Restaurants

The Ultimate Farmers Market Chef Food Festival Returns Bigger Than Ever

True Farm to Table Dining Hits Dallas

BY // 11.01.17

Pulling off a successful festival is no easy feat – hence failures like the epically disastrous Fyre Festival or Plano’s Starfest, which never saw the light of day. Yet, somehow, one of Dallas’ most fruitful festivals never even set out to be one. Chefs for Farmers didn’t intend to draw crowds by the thousands or culinary talent from across the country. It was supposed to be a one-time thing.

A few years ago, co-founder Iris Midler McCallister, then married to chef Matt McCallister, wanted to find a way to connect more farmers with the Dallas restaurant community.

“I said let’s do a long table dinner out in the middle of a farm in the field and let’s get five farmers out there, and let’s get five chefs to work with them,” she tells PaperCity. “That’s a way to get them to meet each other and work together.”

The dinner sold out and people came knocking down her down asking for more. Chefs for Farmers increased in scope with each event, and finally became a festival in 2012 due to popular demand.  

“It’s gone from 125 people to now over 4,000 people. And we never intended to do this. This truly grew out of popularity, out of people loving the message,” McCallister says.

Since its humble beginnings in 2010, the event has grown from a little, one-off dinner party to a Dallas food tradition. This weekend, the festival will unite renowned chefs from Dallas and beyond with the region’s best farmers together to celebrate food; specifically Texas food.

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The usual suspects will be in attendance – Dean Fearing, John Tesar, Matt McCallister – but the best part of Chefs for Farmers is that it brings unsung heroes into the spotlight. The farmers are placed front-and-center, collaborating with an assigned chef for the event.

“It’s a nice thing to see both of them working together and it’s a tribute to farmer’s hard work,” adds McCallister.

For a few days, you’ll have a chance to connect with the people who grow the food you eat. It’s the closest you can get to farm-to-table.

Chef for Famers Schedule

Chefs For Farmers starts on Thursday, November 2 with Bite Night at the Dallas Farmers Market. Hosted by chef John Tesar, the first throwdown of the weekend will feature a crew of Top Chef alum. Working with Texas beef, the chefs will compete against one another to see who can showcase Texas flavors best (find more info here).

Friday, November 3 is the Know Thy Farmer dinner at the refreshed Adolphus Hotel. Five local farms will be paired with five top chefs for an intimate dinner highlighting regional flavors. Chefs include The French Room’s Michael Ehlert, Matt McCallister, expert Houston baker Rebecca Masson and more. Sadly, it’s already sold out.

On Saturday, November 4, Chefs For Farmers is offering a more casual, eclectic event. The Street Food Night Market will bring flavors from across the world to Victory Park. Guests can wander through the pop-up market, sampling dishes from an array of local and national chefs.

This will be the first year the market is held in Victory Park, which is undergoing a major revitalization to make it a more walkable, culturally relevant district. The redevelopment efforts are being led by owner Estein USA, retail partner Trademark Property Co. and entrepreneur Tristan Simon.

“In Victory, having a vital street life and a really walkable urban experience, that’s a great delivery – but it’s sort of a generic delivery. It gets a lot more powerful when you put a clear cultural narrative on top of that,” Simon says. “We want it to have some cultural depth, but we want all of that to be achieved with food and local food culture as the organizing principle, so Chefs for Farmers has already done that…

“It’s a major cultural building block for us.”

Saturday’s event will officially reintroduce Victory Park to Dallas. It’s also worth mentioning that the night market is the most inexpensive food-focused event on the roster (there are also two beverage classes at the Adolphus during the day on November 4).

The Main Event will take place on Sunday, November 5 in Oak Lawn Park (formerly Lee Park). A long list of high-profile chefs will be cooking up a storm while wineries, breweries and distilleries provide a variety of beverages. The event goes from 2 to 6 pm and also includes a DJ and live music.

To summarize, it’s a very busy long weekend for foodies from Dallas and beyond.

Co-founder Iris McCallister expects that the festival’s reach will only grow with each passing year. But no matter how many out of towners join the ranks, Chefs for Farmers will stay focused on Dallas.

“[The goal] is to create a destination food festival and get more supporters behind us.” she says. “We have something special with this.”

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