When Mat Kline first started working at Lane Community College last August, he set to work formulating a new foodie event that could bring together Lane County’s chefs, food producers, students and lovers of all things culinary.
After months of hard work, that idea is coming to fruition with Food Scene Eugene, a two-day food fest that includes the Iron Chef Eugene competition at the LCC main campus May 13 and 14.
Kline, the dean of conference and culinary services at LCC, says he hopes the event will help build a sense of community for the local food scene, which he describes as “welcoming.”
“I’ve traveled all over the place and done all types of fun events, but everybody here is very cool, laid back and appreciative of the amount of work you put into things,” Kline says.
Food Scene Eugene opens the evening of Friday, May 13, with food demonstrations, onsite food trucks, a “food magician,” who will work the crowd with his edible tricks, and a foodie fashion show with Grace McNabb of Silver Lining Productions.
The next day marks the start of the Iron Chef Eugene competition — instead of a series of showdowns spread over several weeks like last year, this year’s Iron Chef will take place all in one day, with chefs facing off one after another until a winner emerges.
“We get the champion at the end of the day, and there’s a certain amount of stamina that comes from working in the kitchen for five hours,” Kline explains. “To be creative and come up with six or seven gorgeous plates — it’s just increasing the amount of intensity that goes into the competition.”
The first round of Iron Chef Eugene pits Brendan Mahaney and Mikey Lawrence of Belly Taqueria against Michael Landsberg and Lalo Victoria-Ponce of Oregon Electric Station.
Round two features Trevor Rivera and Josh Buckley of Marché doing culinary battle with Michael Autrey and Pierce Kieffer of Board, the newest of the four participating restaurants.
Winners of each round will go head to head in the final round, and the champion team will move on to Bite of Oregon in Portland later this summer.
Iron Chef Eugene is only one of many food-centric activities slated for Food Scene Eugene on May 14. Guests can also sit in on culinary workshops and sample a wide selection of food and drink from local vendors, including WildCraft Cider Works, Noisette Pastry Kitchen, Da Nang Vietnamese Eatery, Belly Taqueria, Party Downtown, Ninkasi Brewing Company and many more.
Tobi Sovak, owner of Noisette, says the pastry kitchen will serve savory and sweet bites at Food Scene Eugene. “It’s great for all of us behind the scenes to meet with guests, but especially to see each other, taste each others’ food and drink and be together,” Sovak says. “Often we work isolated from each other, so it’s fun to get outside of our own little corners of the world.”
Another feature of Saturday’s festivities includes food demonstrations from LCC’s culinary arts students. Kline says LCC students helped tremendously in putting Food Scene Eugene together, including students from fashion, media arts, culinary hospitality and culinary arts.
Hospitality students reap the benefits of having produced a large-scale event, and culinary students get to work one-on-one with professional chefs, making industry connections and forming work relationships.
“These events are great for the community at large to be able to taste the offerings from a variety of sources under one roof,” Sovak says. “But another very important opportunity that these events provide is a chance for us to try new things, maybe offer something we wouldn’t normally offer. Any time we can make room to experiment or innovate is valuable.”
Food Scene Eugene kicks off 5 pm Friday, May 13, at the Center for Meeting and Learning at LCC’s main campus, 4000 E. 30th Ave. Festivities continue noon to 5 pm Saturday, May 14. Tickets are $35 for Friday and $65 for both days. See foodsceneeugene.wordpress.com for tickets and a full schedule.