Farm To Fork: Celebrating Starkville’s Culinary Community

BY LAUREL DONAHOO | PHOTOS BY LAURA DANIELS

Starkville Community Market, a twice weekly event held each Tuesday and Saturday during the summer months in Downtown Starkville’s Fire Station Park, has become an anticipated opportunity for Starkvillians to shop for local produce, fresh baked goods, live plants and other various artisan products. The ever-increasing popularity of the market has brought with it a piqued interest in the farm-to-table concept as well as a community-wide effort to continually improve Fire Station Park.

Market Manager and Special Events Coordinator Jennifer Prather recognized an opportunity to create a special event that could involve market vendors, the Starkville community and members of the steadily growing area restaurant scene. She wanted an event that would keep people excited about eating local and supporting indie restaurants all while raising money to continue improvement of the park, so she approached Chef Ty Thames (restaurateur and chef of Restaurant Tyler, Bin 612, The Guest Room and City Bagel) about the idea of hosting a fundraising dinner to do just that.

“I had dreamed this event up for years,” says Jennifer, “and when I went to Chef Ty Thames, he immediately jumped on board to help me plan this event. Together we created a chef’s style dinner that would highlight five local chefs as well as farmers and producers from the market in a five course, seated dinner. Each chef was responsible for one course which they created using at least ninety percent of market product.”

The event, called Farm to Fork, which was first held 2016 to kick off the summer market, was such a success that the community rallied for a reprisal in 2017. “We are fortunate to have community mem- bers to help us implement our vision, such as Amanda Shafer with Jamison Fry Interiors who provided assorted vintage dishes from her store on University Drive to offer an eclectic dinnerware option for the event,” Jennifer shares.

“Attendees dined family style at tables adorned with Mississippi-made pottery and locally gathered flowers and greenery while they feasted on real, local food from some of Starkville’s most talented chefs.”

The menu for this year’s event started off with passed around fresh assorted hors d’oeuvres by Chef Ty Thames. The first course of the seated dinner was a Vegetable Tian with Tomato Creme Sauce by Chef Caleb Nabors of Commodore Bob’s Yacht Club. Course number two was a Stuffed Mezzaluna Pasta in Pesto by Chef Dillon Han, Chef de Cuisine at City Bagel Cafe and Italian Bistro, followed by a third course of a Muscadine Braised Short Bib Beggar’s Purse also by Chef Ty Thames. The fourth course was a Stuffed Smoked Pork Tenderloin topped with Demi-Glace by Chef Barton Dinkins of Two Brothers Smoked Meats followed by a dessert of Strawberry Ice Cream with Candied Pecans and Basil Syrup by Chef Bery Gordon, Pastry Chef of Eat Local Starkville.

“This event is so special to me and it is one that the community is truly eager to support because they are so grateful for our local chefs who contribute to our culinary community,” Jennifer says. With the award for “Outstanding Creative Fundraising” being given to this event by the Mississippi Main Street Association at their annual Awards Luncheon, it looks like Chef Ty and Jennifer are all set to do the third annual in 2018!