Chef who beat Bobby Flay on TV shows off mushroom dish

By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times

Chanterelle Mushrooms are Grown by a number of local producers and offer a fabulous taste to add to fall dishes.

Chanterelle Mushrooms are Grown by a number of local producers and offer a fabulous taste to add to fall dishes.

At the recent Kennett Square Mushroom Festival which took place earlier in September, Chef Robbie Jester of the Stone Balloon Ale House in Newark, Delaware and the guy who beat Bobby Flay of the Food Network in a faceoff earlier this year, a feat worthy of serious bragging rights, offered a demonstration of a specially created mushroom dish for the crowd of thousands who attended the event .

Chef Robbie demonstrated a Canadian dish called poutine, originating in the province of Quebec. The traditional dish is made with French fries and cheese curds typically topped with a light brown gravy.  There are many variations of poutine. Some restaurants offer poutine with such toppings as sausage, chicken or bacon. He said that he experimented with many different components before arriving at the finished dish.   However in the end he made it with roasted shitake mushrooms and topped with cream rather than brown gravy. He said that this usually fast-food dish was inspired by his first visit to the Mushroom Festival. He also said that he loved the “mouth feel” of this dish, because it was made with roasted mushrooms and tater tots instead of the heavier French fries and gravy. He said that knowing where the local food he serves at the Stone Balloon Ale House comes from is an important component to the food that they serve. Knowing local connections is important to a restaurateur and that he was excited about that as well as preparing a dish for the Festival.

Chef Robbie made his stamp on many Delaware restaurants from the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington to Toscana in Trolley Square, both in New Castle County and is now head chef at the reinvented Stone Balloon Ale House. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America where he graduated with high honors. Chef Robbie was featured on Food Network show Guy’s Grocery Games in November 2015 and is slated to compete on several other TV programs in 2016.

Starting with just a few restaurants selling food on a single block, the Mushroom Festival has grown to become Kennett’s biggest event of the year over a thirty-year period. The mission of the Festival is to educate consumers about the health benefits of mushrooms and to promote tourism in Southern Chester County, all while financially supporting local and regional charities through a grant process. In 2014, the Festival awarded $75,000 to local non-profits from proceeds of last year’s Festival.

Kennett Square, recently named among America’s coolest small towns, produces 65 percent of mushrooms grown in America. Many of the mushroom growers are from Italian-American descent. Commercial mushroom production in the United States started in Kennett Square over 100 years ago and with a majority of the United State’s mushroom production centered in the area around the town. Its tagline is the “Mushroom Capital of the World.”

Cathy Branciaroli also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her award-winning blog Delaware Girl Eats

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