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Sizzling Event! Who's the Best 100-Mile Chef?

Wild Rice and Raincity Grill culinary stars square off Thursday at Museum of Vancouver.

Two of Vancouver's leading local food masters are about to duel in a 100-Mile Chef smackdown, and you might be one of the judges deciding their fate.

On Thursday, Sept. 23, Jennifer Peters of the Raincity Grill and Todd Bright of Wild Rice restaurant will step up to their respective barbeques at the Museum of Vancouver and, having been presented with a bundle of amazing, locally grown food, go at it baster and tong until only one has been crowned champ.

The event, which starts at 6:30, is part of the Museum of Vancouver's fall focus on local food. It'll be co-hosted by The Tyee's David Beers and Steve Burgess. And one of the people judging the delicacies the chefs produce might be you -- two judges will be chosen from the audience, joining two local celebrity judges to be announced.

"We're thrilled Todd and Jennifer agreed to engage in battle," says Beers. "Todd exemplifies the fusion spirit in Vancouver's Pacific Rim character, and Jennifer, representing the first restaurant to carry a 100-Mile Diet menu, brings to the contest that creative commitment to fresh, local goodness."

Meet the contestants

Todd Bright is as worldly as his menu, having started in the restaurant biz at age 17 apprenticing at a Chinese restaurant in Australia, then traveling and cooking in Europe before returning to Australia to chef at multi-award winning Vinos in Queensland. He popped over to Vancouver in 2007 and a year later he was executive chef at Wild Rice. He may be global in his experience, but he's made a delicious study of local, sustainable ingredients, as anyone lucky enough to have dined at Wild Rice can tell you.

Jennifer Peters grew up in the Fraser Valley, got her start apprenticing under chef Bruno Marti at La Belle Auberge in Ladner, and, after working at some posh spots in the U.K., returned to Vancouver, honing her skills at acclaimed restaurants Diva at the Met and The Pear Tree. Not only can Peters say she was raised within 100 miles of Raincity Grill's lovely perch on the edge of English Bay, but her mastery of local fare has landed her on the 100-Mile Diet Challenge reality TV show spawned by the series and book by James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith.

MacKinnon and Smith, who launched the 100 Mile Diet in a series of articles on The Tyee in 2005, have approved the ingredients that Peters and Bright will be given to work with Thursday evening. Those local goodies are being provided by Home Grow-in Buyer's Co-op, a Vancouver-based enterprise started by Deb Reynolds to give local, smaller-scale farmers an outlet to urban folk wanting the best in organic, locally grown meat and produce. Co-op members pay a fee to join, and Home Grow-in puts together for them weekly boxes of great food sourced locally. Since just June membership has zoomed to more than 200.

How tasty can it get?

One of the suppliers of vegetables through Home Grow-in for Thursday's event is Rondriso Farms, a family operation in Surrey producing everything from beets to beef. The produce is all hand-picked, and farmers Ron and Pam Tamis are often joined in the fields by their three kids and parents.

Jesse Veenstra, who works at Home Grow-in, described a meal involving some Rondriso bounty that she tossed together this weekend. She treated her visiting sister and her partner to a couple of pizzas coated with homemade tomato chile sauce, one topped with carmelized onions, pears and goat cheese, the other with grilled zucchini and corn. All of the ingredients were local, including the peach pie to polish it off.

Veenstra sounds formidable in the kitchen. But if she ever wants to be the top 100-Mile Chef around here, she's going to have to go through either Todd Bright or Jennifer Peters. Their culinary cage match is presented by Tides Canada and is part of a series of conversations between David Beers and various local food heroes running once a month through December. The name of the series? Food and Beers, naturally. You can find out more about it here.

As of Tuesday morning, there are still tickets available for Thursday night's battle of the local favourites. There will be snacks, sips from a wine and beer cash bar, words from the chefs and banter from your hosts. And if you're lucky enough to be chosen to judge which chef's meal is best, you may be wiping more than a big grin off your lips by the end.  [Tyee]

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