To paraphrase an old song, last week’s Good Food Festival and Conference Kick-Off was a mutual admiration society. Farmers and cooks showed what they love most about the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market and each other: the essential partnership between the people who produce fabulous ingredients and great food.

It may have been photo shoot week for her upcoming A.O.C. Cookbook, but national culinary inspiration and local food guru Suzanne Goin emceed the day. Plus, she stuck around for a book signing with me.








I expected Nyesha Arrington to be a polished performer (hello, Top Chef season 9) and she was, but who knew Nathan Peitso of Maggie’s Farm could simultaneously cook, talk, and teach (how to clone herbs! using local pink peppercorns!) without breaking a sweat. Nice hat trick! Nyesha and I have decided that Nate is a TV show waiting to happen. Here are her recipes for eggplant compote and wilted kale salad.

Barbara Spencer and I powered through three dishes together, finishing each other’s food sentences as we cooked: the easiest way to roast winter squash; building-block recipes that allow lots of choices depending on what’s at the market. Folks loved our makeshift “oven” on the grill. Who says you need fancy equipment to cook a good meal. Here are our recipes for a vegan stew, smashed apples, and a salad.

Zoe Nathan, her sous chef Laurel, and PY closed the show with a sweet finish. But not too sweet: flavorful berries don’t need much sugar. As Zoe says, “let the ingredients do the work.” A pinch of salt is her secret to bringing flavors forward. And by all means, don’t worry about the exact science of baking; think rustic and forgiving when it comes to crostatas and turnovers.

But there’s a darker side, literally, that PY revealed about the farmer-chef connection. She regaled the audience with tales of 3 a.m. fruit deliveries to Huckleberry Café. Now, that’s an admiration society. For more pix of the 2nd Annual Farmer-Chef Cooking Demo Day at the Market, please click here.

And while we’re at it — a great big thanks to St. Joseph’s Culinary Training Program and Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savouries for their excellent assistance. We couldn’t have done it without you.