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Consumer Night at the VT Farm Show Highlights Local Producers, a “Lake to Plate” Culinary Theme, and a New Capital Cook-Off Champion


Farmers and foodies from across the state converged last Wednesday night, January 28th, to participate in the 4th Annual Consumer Night at the Vermont Farm Show in Essex Jct.  Held on the second night of the Farm Show, Consumer Night celebrated a wide range of Vermont's agricultural products – both in the hands of the Capital Cook-Off competitors, and on display at the Buy Local Market.  While attendees sampled and purchased locally-made specialty goods (including: cheeses, wines, ciders, maple products, and more) from over 50 vendors, the Capital Cook-off began at 5pm.  Hosted by Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross and Deputy Secretary Diane Bothfeld, the Iron Chef-style cooking competition challenged three teams comprised of Vermont Senators, Representatives, and Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets staff to craft a delicious dish using local ingredients over the course of one hour. 

Much anticipated was the competition's secret ingredient: freshly caught Lake Champlain Yellow Perch.  The secret ingredient and the event’s overarching “Lake to Plate” theme was revealed by Dep. Secretary Bothfeld alongside Champ, mascot of the Vermont Lake Monsters, and Clover the Cow, mascot of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross went on to reiterate that, “The ‘Lake to Plate’ theme is a reminder of the importance of our communities’ collective responsibility to support our working landscape, keep our rivers and lake healthy, and sustain viable agriculture.”

Each Cook-Off team prepared Yellow Perch, alongside a number of other local foods, including vegetables, beans, honey, and meats, to be tasted and reviewed by a panel of judges including Lyndon Virkler, Dean of Education at New England Culinary Institute, Brian Roper of Sodexo, Allison Weinhagen of City Market, Hannah Egan Palmer, food writer from Seven Days, Paul Dunkling, owner of Ray’s Seafood, Doug Paine, head chef of Juniper and Bleu in Burlington, Richard Jarmusz of UVM Medical Center Nutrition Services, and Lt. Governor Phil Scott.

After a thorough debate, the judges declared the Agency of Agriculture team to be the 2015 Capital Cook-Off champions, dethroning the defending team from the Vermont House of Representatives. The Ag Agency's winning dish, a spin on fish tacos, featured seasoned and fried perch on a bed of slaw and paratha bread. The Agency team members - John Roberts, Maria Steyaart, Lauren Masseria, and Shelly Saleem, were thrilled with their dish and proud to have participated in such a fun and exciting event celebrating local foods.

“Consumer night was a wonderful combination of Lake to Plate and Farm to Plate, all in one location,” said Dep. Secretary Bothfeld, “we looking forward to an excited rematch next year.”

For more information about Consumer Night at the Vermont Farm Show, the Buy Local Market or the Capital Cook-Off, please contact Ali Zipparo by phone at 802-505-1822, or by email at



About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment.  www.Agriculture.Vermont.Gov