This story was originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.

The Chef at the Market series is like being a part of a live cooking show.

“You know how popular cooking videos are on Facebook?” Heidi Chay, district manager of Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District, said. “People should think of this as a cooking video, but so much better because you can see, hear and taste the results, and talk with the person who prepared it.”

Running off and on since 2010, Chef at the Market is a series featuring live cooking demonstrations and free samples prepared by local chefs at farmers markets.

“The goal is really to encourage more people to come to the farmers markets and that supports our community health and a more diverse economy,” Chay said. “People can learn new and creative ways to use our Alaska grown produce.”

For the first time, Chef at the Market features all local chefs, from local restaurants. In past years, the series brought in chefs from other areas or hosted local volunteers and home cooks.

“The last two winters we’ve been building connections between local restaurant chefs and the farming community, and we’ve done that through a series of events called Farmers and Chefs,” Chay said. “So when I called the chefs this time around people were interested and said yes.”

Farmers and Chefs is a networking event for farmers, food professionals and anyone interested in learning more about serving local products.

This summer, Chef Bobbi Stelljes of Fine Thyme Cafe in Soldotna is participating in the Chef at the Market series for the first time.

“It’s a nice way to see what people can do with local produce,” Stelljes said.

She plans to purchase some produce from the Saturday market for her Tuesday demonstration at the Farmers Fresh Market.

“I want to work with some greens and do them up in a special way,” Stelljes said. “If it’s cold I might make a soup.”

The Chef at the Market series is funded through the state’s Specialty Crop Grant Program. Chefs receive a small stipend to purchase ingredients but volunteer their time for the events.

The Chef at the Market series will be held at the Soldotna Saturday Farmers Market in the parking lot next to Soldotna Elementary, and the Farmers Fresh Market on Tuesdays at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

The demonstrations at the Soldotna Saturday Farmers Market will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturdays, under a Chef at the Market tent.

On June 30, chef Quintin Mapes of Mykel’s Restaurant will be demonstrating grilled summer salads. On July 14, Ally Bril and Emma Becherer with Ionian Kitchens will be doing a bruschetta demonstration. The August 4 demonstration has yet to be announced.

The Farmers Fresh Market demonstrations will be at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays under the Chef at the Market tent.

On July 3, Chef Bobbi Stelljes of Fine Thyme Cafe will be hosting the demonstration, July 10, Chef Steve England of Kenai Catering and on July 17, Chef Andrew Agosti of The Flats Bistro.

Reach Victoria Petersen at vpetersen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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