JJC’s First Ever Farm-to-Fork Market Dinner was a Big Success

This past fall, JJC hosted its first ever Farm-to-Fork Market dinner, featuring produce and meats from local Illinois farms,  on Saturday, Sept. 28 outside the Campus Center cafeteria on the Main Campus, 1215 Houbolt Road in Joliet.

JJC student chefs prepared the five-course meal, beginning with hors d’oeuvres and beverages at 4 p.m.

See photos from the event

Culinary chair Mike McGreal said the vast majority of the evening’s meal consisted of local food from no more than 250 miles away – from lettuce harvested at the JJC Greenhouse to craft beers brewed in Chicago and meats from naturally raised animals in central Illinois. Only a small percentage of other ingredients, such as flour and fish, was to come from a further distance.

McGreal said the food for the Farm-to-Fork Market Dinner came from producers who enforce sustainable production practices on their farms, businesses, or aquaculture.

One farm that still raises livestock in the same way that they did in 1888 donated food for the event.

“We’re very excited to be featuring amazingly high quality farm-raised and hormone-free beef and pork products from Slagel Family Farm in Fairbury, Ill.,” McGreal said. “The farmer, LouisJohn Slagel, is even a graduate of the JJC agriculture program and is donating beef and pork products to support the culinary arts students and faculty.”

Because produce grows at its own speed, the menu was a surprise, according to McGreal, although diners could expect a family-style salad course; grilled, roasted, and slow cooked meat courses; poultry and salmon courses; and a dessert course.

McGreal said this event taught student chefs – the area’s future cooks and restaurateurs – that fresh food is always better than anything that comes prepackaged or out of season.

“Think about trucking things across the country, flying food across the globe,” McGreal said. “Local farmers are right here – not these giant producers. By supporting them, we support our own community. We keep families healthier. We aren’t doing anything to have a negative impact on the environment and neither are these farmers and producers we are honoring with this dinner. When a community is strong and supports other members of our own community, the whole community prospers.”

Events like the Farm-to-Fork Market Dinner also help the JJC Culinary Arts Department by providing money for student scholarships and faculty professional development. $50 from each ticket purchased will go toward those funds.

The farmers meet-and-greet, which took place just prior to the event, gave guests a chance to mingle with some of the farmers who had their products on the evening’s menu. Guests got the chance to ask questions and purchase their own fresh food.


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