published Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Cast Iron Cook-Off at Chattanooga Market — Sept. 22

Five local chefs will compete in the Cast Iron Cookoff at Chattanooga Market on Sunday.
Five local chefs will compete in the Cast Iron Cookoff at Chattanooga Market on Sunday.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.


• What: Cast Iron Cook-off at Chattanooga Market.

• When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22

• Where: First Tennessee Pavilion, 1829 Reggie White Blvd.

• Admission: Free

• Phone: 423-402-9958

• Website:

You don't have to watch TV cooking shows to see top chefs in action. Just show up at Chattanooga Market on Sunday, Sept. 22, and you'll witness five of the area's most prominent chefs preparing original recipes as part of the Cast Iron Cook-off.

The chefs -- Mac Casteel (Cafe on the Corner), Nick Goeller (212 Market), Michael Lindley (Public House), Matt Marcus (Elemental) and John Palacio (Porter's Steakhouse) -- will create recipes using fresh ingredients sold at the market.

Recipes are created on the spot, says market marketing director Melissa Siragusa.

"We always try to gather recipes [to share with the public], but honestly they [the chefs] are creating as they go and often don't remember," she says.

The chefs make just enough food for the contest judges to sample, so there's not enough to feed the mass of onlookers, but the event remains a favorite of marketgoers.

"In its 12th year, this event is one of our most anticipated," Siragusa says. "It combines everything folks love about the market -- fresh local food, creative culinary demonstrations and entertainment."

Chefs are allowed to bring only serving dishes and cooking utensils. The market provides salt, sugar, vinegar and other basic add-ins, plus a mystery ingredient (not known until that day) and a modest budget to purchase fresh ingredients from market vendors. However, this year's mystery ingredient will not be as mysterious as in other years. To tie in with the Tennessee Aquarium's Serve & Protect initiative, a sustainable seafood product will be the base of the dish.

The restaurants represented in the cook-off are among those that incorporate sustainable seafood in their daily menus and who support local farms to source the majority of their ingredients, Siragusa says.

Chefs will be allowed an hour to formulate ideas and shop for ingredients.

"There are no restrictions, other than all foods must be sourced from within the market," according to "The ultimate goal is to showcase the abundance and variety of local foods in a way that is both entertaining and educational."

Atlanta chef Tamie Cook will be the guest emcee. She will interview the chefs while they cook, talk about the dishes they are preparing, the reasons they chose specific ingredients, what farms they shopped from and what their restaurant specialties are.

Chefs also will interact with marketgoers during their one-hour cooking time. Then, they'll present their creations to the tasting panel. Judges will score the dishes on appearance, taste, creativity and overall impression. The new Cast Iron Chef and a runner-up will be announced and awarded cookware prizes supplied by longtime sponsor Lodge Cast Iron.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at or 423-757-6396.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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