Great event Saturday out at Chef's Garden/Culinary Vegetable Institute to raise money for the Jones family's initiative to help educate kids about food, called Veggie U.  It aims to reach 4th graders nationwide with a curriculum teaching
how to make smart choice about food, everything from what they choose
to eat to understanding the concepts of sustainable
agriculture.  A thousand people turned out to taste scores of chef
dishes, taste wines, watch demos eat Jeni's ice cream, and watch an Iron Chef-style
competition.  The event raised some good money, but what Lee Jones, in
trademark red bow tie and overalls, told me they really need to kick their
program up to the next level is a corporate sponsor from a larger
company whose goals align with their own. They had an offer from Coca
Cola, for instance, which they couldn't accept, bless them.  It's a sad irony of our times that a company doing things the right way would have such a hard time finding support from a larger company who got larger by also doing things the right way. Does one exist? Maybe one of them will realize what the Jones family has realized: The only
way we'll truly change the way this country produces and distributes its food is to
educate our children. Today.
Bob Jones Sr and Fred Griffith event emcee
Chef's Garden patriarch Bob Jones and Cleveland television veteran and cookbook author Fred Griffith announcing top chef scores.
Chef Phillip Foss_1
One of my favorite tastes of the day, Phillip Foss's cheese-stuffed boneless chicken wing; deconstructed dishes can be done without wit or flavor; this one was succulent and delicious. I'm going to fill mine with sausage!

Chef Jonathon Sawyer
Jonathan Sawyer, chef of the Greenhouse in Cleveland was there with his wife, chef's widow, and staff serving a delicious goat "porchetta" with quail egg interiour garnish.

Chef Jonathan Bennett

Cleveland chef Jonathan Bennett of Moxie and staff sauteed more than a thousand scallops (no easy thing to get a good sear on a thousand scallops with the gaping maw of the public in your face!).

Star Chef Cookoff_4
30 minutes for a mystery basket dish (squash blossoms, micro fennel,
tomatoes, walleye), two bunson burners and little prep space: chefs from
reality television, Paula DaSilva (Hell's Kitchen), James Briscione
(Chopped) and Lee Anne Wong (Top Chef season 1).
Chef Alex Guarnaschelli
Judge Alex Guarnaschelli, chef of Butter and now into the TV world herself (her mom was the editor of Charcuterie).

Lee Anne Wong and Michael Ruhlman
One of the judges harassing Lee Anne Wong

Bruce Seidel
Bruce Seidel of the Food Network, producer of Iron Chef America.

Chef James Briscione Cook off winner
Bob Jones congratulates Chef Briscione, winner by 1/2 point of the competition.

Thanks to the Jones family and the many many volunteers who helped
run the event and of course the great generosity of the chefs and their
staffs who gave their time and food to support Veggie U.

(Photos courtesy of Michelle Demuth-Bibb/The Chef’s Garden)


15 Wonderful responses to “Veggie U Benefit, Milan, OH”

  • EButton

    This was my first venture to Chef’s Garden where I was enthralled, as countless others have been, of the concept & remarkable farm product.
    On my way home I listened to NPR’s interview of Robert Kenner’s movie “Food, Inc.” and got another earful of all we must do to change our food culture.
    Thanks for sharing your experience at Chef’s Garden!

  • Laura

    I’m somewhat obsessed with that cheese stuffed chicken wing. Any idea how it was constructed?

  • Phillip Foss

    It was great meeting you and I look forward to hearing the results on the sausage stuffed wings! I have a recipe for my concoction at
    In regards to sponsorship for this amazing program,I’d think Whole Foods would be a prime candidate. Take care and hope to see you again soon,Phillip

  • Renee DeLuca

    As for corporate sponsors, Kaiser Permanente sponsors the Veggie U. program in the Cleveland schools–and KP also sponsors the program in other schools in other cities. I wonder if there’s potential for KP to sponsor on a larger scale? The home office is in Oakland, Cali. Perhaps they could reach out to the folks there.

  • Kristine

    This was my first food festival and it was fantastic. I really liked Jamie McFadden’s Stilton Bread Pudding. I ended up buying the cookbook for that recipe. I loved the deconstructed buffalo wing, as well.The Jones family are wonderful and Bob Jones was the cutest thing I have ever seen. Will definitely attend next year. Can you tell me who won the voting? We missed the announcement somehow.

  • Lisa

    Too bad there weren’t vegetarian dishes with the vegetables at the center of the plate, as the star.

  • Cheryl Ashton

    Also loved the Stilton Bread pudding but had to give it to Chef Shawn Brozic, Wyndham at Playhouse Square,for his presentation of Seared Ahi Tuna sitting atop a shot glass of Watermelon Gazpacho.

    Always a great event. I think they still have cookbooks available ($20) for anyone looking for recipes.

  • Rod Chu

    Thanks to Michael Ruhlman for participating and providing such good comments in the Cook-Off (won by 1/2 point by Chef James Briscione, Chef Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education and recently featured on Chopped).

    The food and wines offered at the event were terrific!

    I too was intrigued by Chef Phillip Foss’ deconstructed Buffalo wing “lollypops.” They looked like a lot of work to do at home, but I hope to find his recipe. (After all, I’ve made Thomas Keller’s Ratatouille recipe – from the movie – a regular on my list, despite the solid 2 hours of work it takes to prepare.)

    Chef Jonathan Bennett’s scallops were also one of my favorites, as were: Top Chef Lee Anne Wong’s marinated beef short ribs; Chef Regan Reik’s (Pier W, Lakewood) Copper Salmon Tartare with Fennel Hyssop Ice Cream dots; and Chef Feej Flamholz’s (Baltimore, MD) Maryland Crab Salad (huge lumps of lightly dressed crab meat).

    I’ve uploaded my shapshots, accessible through my blog at

  • Kristine

    Rod, the recipe is available on Foss’ website. Click on the link Michael provided above.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I wish Montreal chefs would concoct such an idea. I don’t know about school integration though as our kids have two languages to contend with and if in sectarian schools then sometimes four languages; can u believe that the lunch ‘hour’:the most important meal of the day has been cut to 30 min at Montreal schools. That is sick….so kids gulp down their food without enjoying or savoring any of it in order to have play time outside before the bell ANY MONTREAL TEACHERS OR CHEFS READING GET ACTIVE

  • luis

    Jesus Michael, you still wonder why I pester you so much?… This type of hopeful inspirational message is priceless man. I am not smart but hey! I do know something..bro.
    This is CONTENT, better than the factory news and the factory anything… this is REAL.
    Now why hasn’t the world seen what I see?. The day they do this blog will be soo busy that you probably won’t ever hear from me again. Yeah! I know Bourdain is choked up about that….!

  • JR Prospal

    Really great event, Michael. I’m glad you posted about this. I had the chance to see the PolyCultures film in Columbus last week and was truly moved by the desire to teach people what good food is and how they can grow it themselves. The future looks bright with programs like this. I’ll spread the word on my blog as well, the more people knowing about this the better we’ll all be.