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A Local Experiment 

Top Chef's Hugh Acheson comes to Idaho to immerse himself and his audience in eating close to home

click to enlarge Hugh Acheson appears at the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel on Sunday.
  • Hugh Acheson appears at the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel on Sunday.

Hugh Acheson, the Canadian chef famous for his Southern food and acerbic judging style on Top Chef, cares about culinary culture, eating local and using food as a way to connect with others. This weekend, local fans have a chance to connect with Acheson on a more personal level over slow-roasted wild salmon, wheat berries with dill, and buttermilk-huckleberry panna cotta — made by the chef himself.

Acheson is set to give a live demonstration as a part of the Farm To Fork event on Sunday at the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel. The event aims to "emphasize the bounty" of the "broad variety of foods growing naturally" and locally, says Steven Walk, the resort's executive chef.

The event's proceeds benefit radio host Ken Hopkins of KZZU's "Ken, Dave & Molly," paralyzed from mid-chest down a month ago in a bicycle accident.

Acheson says he's passionate about "cooking from scratch, cooking with the seasons," and "caring for the history of the food."

Loyal fans of the show may expect Acheson's live demonstration to be like his judging — witty, quick, sarcastic — but his in-person self may be softer than imagined.

"I've got a pretty warm, compassionate, empathetic side that is just trying to get people to cook from scratch again," he says. "I think it's a big community skill that the next generation needs to take again, or we're going to lose something that I don't think we really want to lose."

Acheson says he loves —and thinks all food lovers should also love — immersing himself in the culinary cultures of his home (Athens, Georgia) and the places he visits. He does this by visiting local libraries for community cookbooks, and more importantly attending farmers markets and asking them about the culinary culture of the land. This might not be easy, but Acheson says taking the inconvenient path is the most important lesson he has to pass on.

"The convenient path has given us crappy food, obesity and type II diabetes. The inconvenient way puts you in the kitchen," Acheson says. "I don't think anybody complains about having spent too much time with their family in the kitchen at the end of their life." ♦

Farm to Fork • Sun, Aug. 16, farmers market at 10 am, demonstration at 3 pm • Coeur d'Alene Casino's Chinook Meadow • 37914 S. Nukwalqw, Worley, Idaho • $10, proceeds benefit Ken Hopkins' recovery fund; to contribute: • • 800-523-2464

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