Meet the Winners of the CSA Smackdown: Ashley Toombs & Jose Luis Chavez Rivera

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File 1565Representing Brooklyn’s Crown Heights CSA, Ashley Toombs and Jose Luis Chavez Rivera took home the Great CSA Smackdown championship title for their delicious dish – Collard Napoleon Stuffed with Fall Ratatouille and Pear Chutney. The Crown Heights CSA team was one of four CSAs in the competition, which also included Washington Square CSA, Sixth Street CSA, and Grand Street CSA.  The CSA Smackdown, held at Brooklyn Winery on November 11th, was the finals event for a series of cooking competitions held by the CSAs to identify their most creative cooks. Each team was given a mystery box of local ingredients from Stoneledge Farm and had thirty minutes to plan and prepare a dish for a panel of expert judges, which included restaurateur Jimmy Carbone, author Tamar Adler, and Brooklyn Winery Executive Chef David Colston.

It was a tight competition, but Ashley & Jose Luis came out on top.  This was their first season as members of the Crown Heights CSA, as the couple recently moved to NYC from Peru. 

“We wanted to continue living a sustainable lifestyle the way we did in Peru, so CSA has been a great opportunity,” Ashley says.  While in Peru working for the Peace Corps, she met Jose Luis, who was in cooking school.  There, she says, having fresh, local produce available was a way of life, not just a movement. “You’re eating a CSA every single day. It was the normal thing to always have fresh vegetables to cook with.”

File 1566If they weren’t members of their CSA, Ashley believes they would have a difficult time cooking the way they had become accustomed to in Peru. In the couple’s Crown Heights neighborhood, Ashley says, the local supermarket’s produce is expensive and isn’t always fresh.

Being CSA members also helped Ashley and Jose Luis adapt to life in the States. “It can be hard to find a sense community in a big city like New York, and being part of the CSA, getting there every week to pick up our share and seeing the same people, has made me truly feel a sense of community. It has been quite a rewarding experience.”

A sense of community was something Ashley also felt strongly at the CSA Smackdown – it was a truly memorable evening, she says. “The whole ambience of the event, the enthusiasm of the teams, CSA members, and staff was so lovely -- people who are passionate about local food all got to come together.”

Recipes from the 2013 Smackdown:
Collard Napoleon Stuffed with Fall Ratatouille & Pear Chutney – Crown Heights CSA
Collard & Brussels Sprout Ceviche – Sixth Street CSA
Veggie Surf & Turf – Grand Street CSA

Photos by Dave Katz. www.katzcaptures.com