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Prominent chefs divulge favorite apple recipes

Contact: Denise Donohue
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(DeWitt, Mich.) – Not only are consumers demanding locally grown produce, but many chefs across Michigan are choosing fruits and vegetables from the Great Lakes region to ensure superior taste, freshness and flavor in their signature dishes.

John Zehnder, chef of Zehnder’s Restaurant in Frankenmuth, said he uses locally-produced foods whenever possible to provide quality and consistency, resulting in what he considers a “competitive business edge.” 

“Michigan's economy needs all the help it can get and buying locally keeps the dollars in our immediate area,” said Zehnder.  “Besides, we find local produce to be fresher and more flavorful than foods that have been shipped across the country and stored for long periods of time before being sold to us.”

Chef Steven Simpson, culinary director of the Art Institute of Michigan, said he strives to use local produce in his recipes whether at work or at home, citing quality as the number one reason.

“The simple fact is that local produce never spends four to eight days on a truck traveling to your market,” said Simpson.  “It’s entirely possible to have it picked one day and shipped and in the markets the next.  In the long run, it ends up being fresher and having a superior flavor.”

Zehnder and Simpson are among a group of prominent Michigan chefs that believe so strongly in locally grown produce that they are sharing prized apple recipes in an effort underway by the Michigan Apple Committee to raise awareness of the state’s apple industry, estimated to have an economic impact of $700 million annually.

Denise Donohue, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, said there is no question that demand for locally grown produce continues to grow.

“We hear comments all the time that a locally grown Red Delicious is far superior to one grown far away,” said Donohue.  “With food miles fast becoming an important issue with shoppers, Michigan’s central location in the heart of the Midwest makes us a prime source for quality produce.”

Michigan chefs Frank Turner of Matt Prentice Restaurants and Aaron Cozadd of Clarkston Café also realize the importance of supporting local produce, having worked closely with Select

Michigan, a program operated by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.  Both Turner and Cozadd help raise awareness of Michigan apples through cooking demonstrations and in-store appearances. 

“Select Michigan chefs like Frank and Aaron help to educate the public about the wide variety of Michigan apples and the tremendous versatility of the fruit,” said Donohue.  “The recipes they have agreed to share with us are for all levels of cooks from the beginner to the more experienced.”

Michigan is one of the top three apple producing states in the nation, growing about 24 different varieties for the commercial market.

Simpson agrees that being aware of issues like transportation distances is of key importance to success in the culinary world and even beyond.

“I’m a chef, but also a father and commercial shopper, and a little bit of knowledge about buying locally and seasonally can save you money,” he said.  “As the price of diesel continues to rise, so too will the price of food with a 2,500 mile, diesel-fueled trek.”

Apples are by far the largest and most valuable fruit crop grown in Michigan, with a value of about $100 million annually to the grower.  Small family farmers who operate their own orchards dominate the Michigan apple industry, with statistics showing that about 65 percent of orchards are less than 200 acres.

Additional apple recipes from Michigan chefs will be featured at MichiganApples.com this fall.  Donohue said the web site is undergoing a transformation and should be ready for launch by mid-September.

“In addition to professional recipes, we’re going to host an apple recipe contest and call on the general public to submit a dish of their own creation for a chance to win a prize,” said Donohue.

The Michigan Apple Committee is a grower-funded, nonprofit organization devoted to market development, education and research activities to distinguish the Michigan apple and encourage its consumption by consumers in Michigan and around the world.

(Note: The featured chefs and their recipes are included in this press kit and will be showcased on the Michigan Apple Committee’s newly re-designed web site, expected to launch this fall.)