Chef brings Butler Tech ‘cheflings,’ unique meals to this farmer’s market

Chef Tyler Simpson, the instructor at Butler Tech culinary program at D. Russel Lee, brings rising seniors to the Village Green Farmers Market in Fairfield once a month to prepare items purchased that day at the market. Samples of the food are given away to patrons at the market. They were at the June 19 market preparing various dishes. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
Chef Tyler Simpson, the instructor at Butler Tech culinary program at D. Russel Lee, brings rising seniors to the Village Green Farmers Market in Fairfield once a month to prepare items purchased that day at the market. Samples of the food are given away to patrons at the market. They were at the June 19 market preparing various dishes. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

What Tyler Simpson does each month at the summer Village Green Farmers Market is a combination of the television shows "Iron Chef" and "Chopped," said the Butler Tech culinary arts program instructor.

Simpson and some of his rising senior students Butler Tech — whom vendors dubbed the "cheflings" — make monthly appearances at the farmers market. He and his chefs-in-training create dishes "on the fly" as they see what products growers and producers are offering that day, he said.

“We come here to promote the farmers here at the farmers market and give people ideas of what to do, as well as promote our program,” said Simpson. He also said it’s helping to show people they can cook at home, which “is important.”

“They buy it, they take it home and they make a salad tonight, or they make the brats and cabbage that we’re going to do,” Simpson said Wednesday at the market.

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“I think as a society we’ve started leaning towards eating out more than cooking at home. If I can be here and show them something they can make with the product that is literally here at the market. I’ve helped give back cooking at a little bit which I think it’s important.”

Simpson recalls growing up eating at the dinner table every night, “sitting down and talking as a family, sharing food and being present with one another. I don’t think that happens a lot anymore as a society.”

The Village Green Farmers Market is in its fourth summer season at downtown Fairfield park nestled between the Fairfield Lane Library and city's Community Arts Center. The summer edition of the market runs 4 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday through Oct. 16.

In addition to the farmers, there are dozens of vendors featuring local gourmet specialty foods and baked goods, and artisans that feature, among other things, hand-crafted jewelry, soaps and home decor.

This past Wednesday, Simpson and three of his students created several dishes patrons sampled he created only after he shopped at the market. He says he never knows what he’ll create until he visits the vendors who sell produce, olives, specialty meats, honey, bread, cheeses and other food items. He created a couple of types of salads, a brat and cabbage dish, and other dishes that featured honey, beets, green peppers, squash, bacon and potatoes purchased from the market.

“They always ask for the recipes, and I tell them I don’t know what I’m making until I get here so I don’t have a recipe for it,” Simpson said. But he’ll tell them what he did “so they can try to re-create it.”

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The sizzle of the meets and the “cheflings,” who volunteer their time to practice their craft, attract patrons going from vendor to vendor as they traverse Village Green Park.

“It’s lovely,” said Ginger Fischer, a Fairfield resident. “It’s a nice concept.”

Fischer said she enjoys getting the fresh produce.

“I love the market,” she said.

Fischer was attending the market with Lisa Bryant, a Fairfield native who now lives in New Mexico.

“This is a great opportunity,” she said.