Chef demos give Helena Market Days pizzazz

Chef Chris Hastings of the Hot & Hot Fish Club, holding his signature Summer Tomato Salad alongside Mary Perko, Helena Market Days volunteer and chef recruiter and Hot & Hot Cold Line Cook, Eric McInnish. (contributed)

Chef Chris Hastings of the Hot & Hot Fish Club, holding his signature Summer Tomato Salad alongside Mary Perko, Helena Market Days volunteer and chef recruiter and Hot & Hot Cold Line Cook, Eric McInnish. (contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

Chris Hastings, awarded Best Chef in the South, 2012, by the James Beard Foundation, created his special Hot & Hot Fish Club Tomato Salad at Helena Market Days to an appreciative audience on June 15.

With volunteer Mary Perko again outdoing herself in recruiting chefs for our 2013 markets, the remainder of the season offers great opportunities to learn and sample from more great chef demos as well as obtain the ingredients firsthand from area farmers and growers.

Hastings, a committed proponent of buying fresh and local, said, “You, the consumer, can say ‘I choose to buy fresh Alabama seafood; I choose to buy fresh tomatoes or peas, corn or okra from my local farmer’s market.’ You are then supporting your local infrastructure.”

“In turn, your local sources can build out, grow more, harvest more and, ultimately, provide our children a safer, less processed diet. You do have to give up a bit of convenience — you have to make the effort to go to the market or your fishmonger. You don’t just buy from the frozen section of the supermarket.”

You can order a personalized Hastings cookbook that contains the tomato salad recipe prepared in his demo, online at Hotandhotfishclub.com.

Come early and shop for beautiful produce with our vendors — blackberries, peaches, blueberries, peppers for multiple tastes, yellow squash, patty-pan squash, zucchini, potatoes, garlic, rattlesnake beans, lemon and Armenian cucumbers to name a few of last week’s offerings.

The HHS Band Boosters are providing breakfast sandwiches and coffee to raise funds and other vendors offer fresh-mint iced tea, hand-rolled yeast pastries and of course, B B’s fine selection of sourdough bread.

The market has honey, cornmeal, grits, fruit butter, pickles, herbs, Cheeky Maiden soaps, wooden pens and other carvings, funky aprons and fabric purses, and Little Bit Southern Cookbook is taking pre-orders.

Miles Apart, the duo of Thomas Trussell and Ashley Partridge, performed after the chef demo, and each week the market will feature live music and other informative non-profits, such as the Birmingham Rose Society or Independent Living Resource Center.

See what’s coming up and going on weekly at Helena Market Days facebook page.