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Michigan chefs showcase locally-grown fruits at National Restaurant Show in Chicago

Contact: Denise Donohue
(800) 456-2753

(Chicago, Ill.) – A handful of Michigan chefs cooked-up attention of various Michigan fruit crops at the National Restaurant Association Show, which attracted 55,000 attendees over the four-day event held May 22-25 at McCormick Place.

Chefs and culinary artists from around Michigan offered cooking demonstrations and shared unique recipes featuring locally-grown Michigan apples, blueberries, cherries and peaches.

The fruit showcase was made possible by a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant submitted by Michigan Apple Association (MAA) on behalf of the various commodity groups.

“The chefs did a fantastic job showing all the different ways you can use Michigan-grown fruit in dishes from your traditional apple pie to the more unconventional blueberry sliders and cherry chili,” said Denise Donohue, (MAA) executive director.  “We emphasized the vast availability of processed fruits coming from our state and we had a very favorable response.”
Culinary presenters included: Chef Paul Penney of Canton; Chef Eric Villegas of Williamston; bakery owner Linda Hundt of DeWitt; culinary professor William Nicklosovich; mixologist Charles Joly of Chicago; and caterer Patrice Hartmann of South Haven.

Penney — born in Adelaide, South Australia — operates Aussie in the Kitchen personal chef service, utilizing local ingredients in his down-under dishes.  He conducts cooking demonstrations throughout the country and has appeared on multiple local television shows.

Villegas is most well-known as the personality and chef of “Fork in the Road” on PBS.  Among other accomplishments, he has owned and operated two award-winning regional restaurants — Dusty’s Wine Bar and Restaurant Villegas.  Villegas prides himself in working closely with farmers to incorporate regional and local food in his show and restaurants.

Hundt operates Sweetie-Licious Bakery in DeWitt.  The eight-time first place winner of the Crisco National Pie Championship asserts that her business is based on love and nostalgia—and good pies, too.  Aside from her baked goods, Hundt plays the role of a respected business woman, key-note speaker and founder of the DeWitt Farmer’s Market.

Nicklosovich, commonly known as “Chef Nick,” is a culinary professor at Lansing Community College who knows the importance of incorporating locally-grown food into his curriculum.  He uses local ingredients for their superior quality and to put money back into Michigan’s economy.  He is also founder of two non-profit organizations, as well as a Guinness Book of World Records record holder for creating the world’s largest slab of fudge—made almost entirely of Michigan ingredients.

Joly, chief mixologist of the Drawing Room and Executive General Manager for Three Headed Productions, has competed in some of the most prestigious cocktail competitions both nationally and globally, using Michigan fruits in his concoctions.  Joly is continuing his education, after developing one of the most respected beverage programs in the nation.
Hartmann, blueberry farmer-turned-plant manager for True Blue Processing and co-owner of P&S Catering, knows what it takes to create delicious dishes.  Hartmann has gone from growing and harvesting blueberries, to using them—and other specialty fruits—in her catering operation.  “Treat”, as she is affectionately known, derives pleasure from helping the consumer appreciate Michigan’s fine fruits.

MAA is a trade association consisting of growers, shippers, processors and allied industry members guided by a seven-member board of directors. Founded in 2005, MAA handles such issues as grant applications, issue advocacy on behalf of the industry and educational outreach for the Michigan apple industry.