‘Iron Chef’-style competition raises funds for Sonoma Family Meal nonprofit

Chef Mark Stark judged the Santa Rosa competition, which also included a whole pig dinner and live auction.|

Three chefs entered — only one would emerge a winner.

That was the premise Nov. 13 in an “Iron Chef”-style competition that pitted three local culinary leaders against one another as part of the first annual Knife’s Edge fundraiser for nonprofit Sonoma Family Meal.

Chefs Dustin Valette, of The Matheson and Valette in Healdsburg; Marley Brown, of SingleThread in Healdsburg; and Tracey Cenami, of Jackson Family Wines in Santa Rosa, engaged in the friendly contest in front of 165 people at Moose Lodge in Santa Rosa.

Santa Rosa chef Mark Stark, of Stark’s Steak & Seafood and other local restaurants, judged the cook-off that sought the best dish made from all-local produce and a locally raised hog.

Brown emerged from the 30-minute competition as the victor, bestowed with the title of Star Chef and Food Waste Warrior.

The fundraiser included a whole pig dinner for the crowd and a live auction with items such as dinner for four at SingleThread, with a beer pairing from event sponsor Russian River Brewing Co., and a trip to Mexico.

The event raised an estimated $160,000 for Sonoma Family Meal, according to Whitney Reuling, executive director of the nonprofit, which aims to feed locals in need.

“The guests had fun; the chefs had fun,” Reuling said. “The event embodied the heart of the culinary and food industry in this county and was representative of who we are as an organization and where we hope to go.”

Founded in the aftermath of the 2017 North Bay fires by food critic and Press Democrat columnist Heather Irwin, Sonoma Family Meal began as a disaster-relief organization feeding locals impacted and displaced by fires, floods and the pandemic.

Since opening its Petaluma kitchen this year, the organization has stockpiled over 1,000 meals in the event of a future disaster. The group is also feeding some 500 locals in need each week and will begin a culinary job training program in the new year for those facing barriers to employment.

Reuling says the event will become an annual fundraiser for Sonoma Family Meal, as well as a “signature culinary event for Sonoma County that folks look forward to coming to year in and year out.”

For more information, go to sonomafamilymeal.org.

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