A month and a half after the chef's tragic death in a car accident, locavore pioneer Debra Whiting will appear on this Tuesday night's episode of Food Network's cooking competition program "Chopped." Her own Red Newt Bistro is one of several locations around the Finger Lakes and beyond that will host viewing parties for the show.
Chef Debra Whiting appears posthumously on Food Network's "Chopped."Deb was killed in a car accident on June 30th as she and her husband, Dave, returned from a vacation in Vermont. The couple have long been known throughout Central New York for their collaboration at the Red Newt Cellars winery and Red Newt Bistro, which quickly developed a reputation for a focus on fresh, local food.
"Before locavore was a word or a movement, Deb Whiting was practicing it intuitively," wrote Evan Dawson of the New York Cork Report in his feature naming Red Newt Bistro the Finger Lakes Restaurant of the Year for 2010 in December. Writing last month about her death, Dawson quoted her as saying, "People understand that local food is often better food, and it's better for them, and it's clearly better for the local economy. There's too much going for the local food movement to see it fade away. It's here, and it's only going to get stronger."
Since the bistro opened in 1999, Deb made a point not only of using local and regional produce and meats, but telling customers where they came from. Delighted diners quickly learned they could pop up to Autumn Harvest for the same meat they'd just enjoyed, visit Stick and Stone for their fresh vegetables, or look for Lively Run's excellent cheeses. The result was a burgeoning demand for a farm-to-table ethos, and an understanding of how to use seasonal foods rather than bring out-of-season items from hundreds or thousands of miles away, that has taken hold in Central New York more strongly than almost anywhere else.
She's not the first locally renowned chef to appear on "Chopped." The episode that aired on January 4th, "Victory on the Brain," featured Simply Red Bistro chef Samantha (Izzo) Buyskes. The show pits guest chefs against one another, and presents them with mystery ingredients with which they must make a dish in thirty minutes. The January 4th episode featured goat brains as the key ingredient for the appetizer course, fish heads for the entree course, and durian fruit for dessert.
This week's episode, titled "A is for Apple, U is for Udon," airs at 10pm and 1am eastern time Tuesday night on Food Network, which appears on channels 44 (standard definition) and 827 (HD) on Ithaca's Time Warner Cable. The episode was taped last November, and contestants are sworn to secrecy as to the results of the competition. It will be repeated on August 25th at 9pm and midnight, and August 27th at 3pm.
In addition to Red Newt Bistro, overlooking Seneca Lake, viewing parties around the area are slated for Northstar Public House in Ithaca, Two Goats Brewing in Hector, Glenora Wine Cellars in Dundee, and Bistro 223 in Elmira. The latest list of viewing locations is on debrawhiting.org.