Sep 232010
Authors: Matt Miller

Jason Shaeffer has cooked his entire life.

The owner and head chef of local restaurant Chimney Park has cooked at restaurants around the country, but nothing could prepare him for showing off his culinary expertise in the heat of battle.

At 5:30 p.m. this Saturday Shaeffer will participate in the Battle of the Burners, a Fort Collins cooking battle that is part of the Homegrown celebration.

The event is an “Iron Chef”-type battle sponsored by Beet Street as a way to support locally grown food.

“I like getting involved in local events,” Shaeffer said. “I really like what Beet Street is promoting as far as art and culture.”

This is the second time Shaeffer has competed in a battle like this and said it has given him confidence.

“The most challenging thing was the time limit,” Shaeffer said, adding that last year he competed at the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Fair and won.

“I only had 10 minutes left to make crepes from scratch, and I actually pulled it off,” he said.

Even though Shaeffer is a seasoned Johnson and Wales graduate with experience cooking for acclaimed chef Thomas Keller, he can still be thrown off in these competitions by working in a strange kitchen.

“Theoretically we do it every day in our restaurant, where we know how hot a burner is, where every ingredient is,” Shaeffer said. “But in competition you’re in unfamiliar territory.”

Beet Street is a Fort Collins non-profit organization aimed at promoting arts and culture in the city. This is the second year they will be doing an event like Battle of the Burners.

The battle pits six chefs head-to-head in three cooking battles using only locally grown produce provided by Great Family Farms.

This local style of cooking showcased in the Homegrown celebration has become the face of the Fort Collins culinary scene.

“It’s upcoming –– the whole movement of local food,” the seasoned chef said.

When buying food, people need to go local first because it supports the local economy and cuts down the carbon footprint, Shaeffer said.

The second Battle of the Burners is a “boxing-ring style battle,” said Kari Munson, Beet Street event planner.

The three one-on-one battles will feature three main ingredients: eggplant, corn and duck.

Beet Street worked with Great Family Farms to figure out what ingredients are in season and appropriate for the showdown.

“Corn is usually a side dish and not usually on the forefront of a meal,” Munson said.

She added that they expect anywhere from 200 to 300 people at the event.

Audience members will be able to try each item created by the chefs and vote for their favorite.

Winners receive no prize other than the satisfaction of supporting local ingredients and respect throughout the Fort Collins culinary community.

Tickets for the event are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. It will take place at the Fort Collins Masonic Temple. Live music will be provided by the band Constitution.

Entertainment Editor Matt Miller can be reached at

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