Chefs representing the 32 cities with NFL teams at "Taste of the NFL," a hunger relief fundraiser that annually precedes the Super Bowl, typically follow a few rules when they develop their bite-size contributions to the event.
In deference to attendees' fancy dresses and fine suits, they keep saucing tidy. Since most of the 4000 eaters will be juggling a wine glass, they avoid concoctions that require knives and forks. And they tend to feature ingredients which reference their hometowns.
At next month's "Taste of the NFL" in Indianapolis, a Buffalo chef will distribute beef on weck sandwiches; a Charlotte chef will offer pecan biscotti with grilled peach preserves and a Miami chef will ladle out stone crab chowder. John Howie, representing Seattle for the ninth consecutive year, is taking a slightly different approach: He's planning to serve "Ancho Chili Applewood Scented King Salmon on Southwestern Roasted Corn Mashed Potatoes with Sweet Chili Hollandaise and Lime Cream."
"This is the first time I have really steered away from either very Northwest or Pacific regional recipes," Howie says. "I figured that we would use salmon, and this preparation is one of my guests all time favorites. So Southwestern flavors with a Northwest product."
Since he was first invited to participate by the "Taste of the NFL" board, Howie has dished up Dungeness crab cakes; cream of porcini mushroom soup; peppercorn-crusted ahi tuna with ginger-soy reduction and a Dungeness crab and sweet corn bisque. But he hasn't messed with salmon since his first event appearance, when he served a cedar plank-roasted preparation.
"I was a little naïve, and brought my wife instead of another chef," Howie says of his debut performance at a tennis complex in Houston. "I was in the process of parking my car when I saw the delivery truck with all of the chefs' foods on it pull in. As I was walking toward the truck I saw a cart fall off the back of the truck, about a three-foot drop."
Howie lost 30 portions of fish to what he describes as a "rookie initiation."
This year's event is being held in a food bank without kitchen facilities, forcing chefs to cook in advance or jerry-rig an in-booth solution. Howie's chosen the latter.
"It will be challenging," Howie says. "Sort of like the Dinner Impossible show."