On September 14, Tona Sushi participated in the Junior League of Ogden’s Get Fresh Event, a raw food challenge targeted at raising awareness, support and funds for their organization, along with interest in healthy eating! Chefs from all over Ogden were invited, from all walks of life. In addition to our very own Chef Tony Chen was a long line of participating chefs: Steve from Sonora Grille, Mikaela from Indie Ogden & Mama Mouse Says, Gary from Good Life Café, Danielle from Pretty Smitty Pie Company & Alisabeth from The Seductive Soul.
Kind of like “Iron Chef” for Ogden, the Get Fresh Challenge is a lot of fun: starting with the chef’s duking it out over a table filled to overflowing with local produce (From the Ogden’s Farmers Market, Linda Weiskopf – read about her on Indie Ogden http://indieogdenutah.com/2013/09/indie-ogden-local-spotlight-linda-weiskopf-part-two/). Tony and his assistant Shawn were quite methodical in their planning before the challenge began, so that when the countdown to start reached zero, they calmly went about selecting the produce they would need for their submissions: peaches, cucumber, beets, tomatoes, peppers & more!
The rules of the game: Make delicious foods for the crowd to sample using only fresh produce provided by the Junior League of Ogden, with three “secret” ingredients allowed by each team. Then, the crowd would put dollars into jars at the front of the sampling tables to indicate which foods they liked the best.
Tona’s strategy was to use what was provided at the 8′ table by using a majority of the veggies provided by the Junior League, for example, local grown okra from Linda at the Canine Companions for Independence garden. The purpose is to let the ingredient shine. Tona’s first offering was a light and crisp okra salad with peaches, which was a crowd favorite. They couldn’t keep the spoons on the serving platter! Next in the lineup was Tony’s “citrus ravioli” – grapes with orange slices, pepper shavings, citrus reduction…it was delightful.
During the chef’s challenge, the crowd was entertained by guests from the Ogden Nature Center, educating the children about nature and letting them play with a snake and see the lovely owl. There were also children from the Evergreen Academy Montessori School, making peach salsa and limeade and getting the word out about their school.
Tony then pulled out all the stops. Where most chefs only made two offerings, Tona had four! In addition to the okra salad and citrus ravioli, Tony presented the crowd with a fresh veggie roll: beets, oranges and peaches rolled in cucumber with a bright tomato and some basil on top. Delicious! Then, with mere minutes to go, he threw out veggie “pizzas” – a cucumber base, with sliced tomatoes, basil and pepper shavings…It was an amazing display.
When asked what his strategy was, Tony explained that he had been prepping for the event for about a week, thinking of different combinations and practicing with his secret ingredients. Not knowing exactly what would be available to work with, he said, made it a real challenge. But, ultimately, he wanted to make the same quality of food he makes at Tona Sushi, just using veggies and fruit instead of fish. His goal was to make food he’d be proud to serve to the public in his restaurant… He succeeded! Many members of the crowd specifically asked for the okra salad to be added to the menu!
As the clock ticked down the final seconds of the game, it was a mad dash by the crowd to get the last of their dollars into the jars of their choosing. After the clock hit zero, the jars were taken by the representatives from the Junior League and the celebration continued while the counting was underway.
This celebration marks the anticipated grand preview of the Oasis Learning Pavilion. Currently under construction, this beautiful pavilion will feature community gathering space, a demonstration kitchen, greenhouse, and rainwater harvesting; when completed the facility will be able to host group gatherings and classes to teach garden to plate nutrition. All proceeds from the event will go towards help the Junior League of Ogden with its projects to benefit the health and nutrition of local women and children.
At last, the time had come. The final numbers were in. Tona was awarded Third Place, missing Second only by $.31 to Good Life Café!! Such a close competition! The returning champions, Sonora Grill, won First Place for a second year in a row using his own secret ingredient Avocado to make the Guacamole.
All in all, it was an amazing day filled with laughter, great food, friends and community supporters coming together to raise money for a great service to the community. Next year will be just as fun, if not better and we are looking forward to it!