community picnic

From left, Hue-Chan Karels, Matt Yohalem, Jose "Kiko" Rodriguez, Lois Ellen Frank, and Josh Gerwin

For Alexis Brown, director of development and communications for the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute, the organization’s annual picnic is not just about celebrating local food.

“I want to make sure that all members of our community have access to celebrating local food just as much as they have access to buying local food,” she said. “We want to promote the idea that the farmers’ market is for everyone, which it is, especially with programs like Double-Up Food Bucks,” which matches recipients’ SNAP/EBT dollars so they have more to spend at the market.

Brown wanted to continue the institute’s traditional work with Santa Fe restaurateurs and chefs with an event that wasn’t a gala, she said. The annual event (on Oct. 4 this year) carries a $150-per-plate price tag and is the institute’s major fundraiser. Tickets to the family-friendly picnic on Sunday, Aug. 25, range from a much more affordable $5 to $25 per person.

But the lower price doesn’t mean that the food served at the picnic is any less exciting than that at the gala event, or that the chefs creating the menu and preparing the meal are any less celebrated.

This year’s picnic theme, “Global Flavors Local Lunch, “ features fresh, seasonal dishes created by five Santa Fe chefs: Matt Yohalem, James Beard Award-nominated chef/owner of Il Piatto Italian Farmhouse Kitchen; Josh Gerwin, chef/owner of Dr. Field Goods Kitchen and Dr. Field Goods Butcher Shop; Jose “Kiko” Rodriguez, executive chef of Izanami; Lois Ellen Frank, instructor at Santa Fe School of Cooking and chef/owner of Red Mesa Cuisine; and Hue-Chan Karels, chef/owner of Open Kitchen, which offers catering, pop-up cooking classes, and other culinary event services.

Yohalem, who is a member of the institute’s board, volunteered to spearhead the development of the menu and help recruit the participating chefs, along with his friend and colleague Karels, Brown said. “When they started looking at the team that was forming, there was just a world flair about it. That’s where the theme came from.”

“Chef Matt and I want to bring a very special global experience to the local market,” Karels said. “We all cook from our base. I’m from Vietnam, and I bring that culinary experience to my business, Open Kitchen. Kiko brings his background as an accomplished Mexican-origin chef and the ability to make beautiful food and flavors in the Japanese method. Chef Matt has a very classical European influence, and Josh, who was born and bred here in Santa Fe, brings a healthy Americana experience.” And Frank has traveled the world to educate people about Native American foods as a culinary ambassador diplomat with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The final menu is still under development, Yohalem said, and will depend on what is available at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market and how the chefs’ collaborations work out. “Even if one of us takes the lead on a category like a protein or a grain, the others all have the opportunity to chime in. For example, somebody might say, ‘Well, I think it should be barbecued,’ and then somebody else will say, ‘Yeah, but this ponzu sauce would be really good on there,’ and somebody else would say, ‘OK, but if we turn the ponzu sauce into a pesto that would be even better.’ And then we can all say, ‘Yeah!’ And we’ve all contributed to the dish, even though somebody did take the lead.”

The five unique chef-driven dishes will be supplemented by fresh corn from Schwebach Farm roasted by Crescencio Ochoa; cookies from long-time market vendor Crumpackers; and several kid-friendly options like mac ’n’ cheese and sliders. There will something for everyone, Brown said, including “all the heavy-hitters on the diet spectrum: carnivorous, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan.” There’s a complete list of picnic food vendors, educational tables, entertainment, and links to bios of the chefs at

Although Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute’s community picnic is more of a break-even than a major fundraising event, there are 25 VIP tickets available at $100 each for people who want to offer the organization additional support. VIP ticket holders, Brown said, will receive real-time updates on the menu as the chefs on the team hold meetings or go shopping. They will also have the opportunity to go shopping with one of the chefs anytime over the next year.

“The general mission of the Farmers’ Market Institute is to support the farmers’ market and those who utilize it,” Yohalem said. “So, I would like to see as big a turnout as possible, and I would like to see people show their appreciation with not only their presence and enthusiasm but with their checkbooks as well.” ◀

Global Flavor Local Lunch

Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute Community Picnic

Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Pavilion1607 Paseo de Peralta

12-3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25

Tickets: $20 through Aug. 24, $25 at the door, as available; kids 5 and under, $5; VIP $100

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