LA Chefs Cook on Food Stamp Budget

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Could you feed your family on $22.26 for four?  That was the gauntlet we threw down for four LA chefs last week.   Asked to create a meal spending the amount budgeted under SNAP, the food assistance program all chef’s bought produce provided by local farmers Alex Weiser and Phil McGrath (who work to support the Council). Last Friday was CelebrateLA, a big public party honoring Mayor Villaraigosa as he comes to the end of his term.  I had the lucky task of hanging out on stage with the chefs and occasionally jumping in to help.  The chef challenge was the idea of The Los Angeles Food Policy Council, the city wide food policy initiative which was created and given wings during Villaraigosa’s administration.  So we (I’m on the council) thought it would be appropriate to share the joy of food in a unique context during the party.

First up was Roxana Jullapat of Cook’s County.  Her three dishes put a spotlight on the gorgeous colors and punchy flavors of summer produce.  She made an Arugula and Stone Fruit Salad, Savory Cornmeal Pancakes topped with a White Corn and Avocado Salad, and pretty parfaits of Strawberries layered with Yogurt and Honey then topped with Pistachios and Almonds.  We tend to forget that food is less expensive when you eat in season and in California, SNAP benefits are accepted at farmers markets.

As the sun dipped behind the downtown skyline, Loteria Grill chef and proprietor Jimmy Shaw cooked up a creative Mexican menu that used a central ingredient throughout his dishes to save time and money. He started off by cooking up a huge pot of black beans, an ingredient he then featured in all of three of his dishes: pureed in his spinach and panela cheese enfrijoladas, refried in his tostadas, and whole in his frijoles de la olla, which was served alongside a plate of huevos a la Mexicana. In total, Jimmy spent as little as $6 for his three hearty meals.

Next Neal Fraser of BLD, Fritzi Dog, and upcoming Red Bird made an elegant yet simple dish of braised kale and roasted fingerling potatoes served atop a bed of yellow carrot puree.

Topping off the night was Roy Choi of the Kogi, Chego, and A-Frame with a colorful one pot dish of Kale sauteed with green garlic into which he “poached” farm fresh eggs.  He then wowed the crowd with an avocad and fruit salsa.

Recipes will be available on the Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s website