Nickel City Chef’s final season
Founder Christa Glennie Seychew reflects on Buffalo's unique professional cooking competition
Photos courtesy of Nickel City Chef
Nickel City Chef’s first battle of the 2018 season takes place on February 18, with Nickel City chef Edward Forster v. challenger Joseph Fenush. Three more battles and a finale are also scheduled.
Visit nickelcitychef.com for tickets and information. All battles take place at Artisan Kitchen & Baths, 200 Amherst St.
Ten years and forty live shows later, Buffalo’s own Iron Chef, Nickel City Chef, is hanging up its saucepans and packing up its knives. Winter Sundays will never be the same for the avid fans of this professional cooking competition, who made sure that every season was sold out within weeks of announcement. NCC is unusual among shows of this kind because each week’s mystery ingredient must be locally grown and/or produced, thus highlighting resources that can only be found in Western New York and are seasonally appropriate. In other ways, NCC follows the Iron Chef format; each week, a new chef challenges one of NCC’s resident four champions to create the best dishes with the chosen ingredient.
For Nickel City Chef founder, Christa Glennie Seychew, this project has always meant much more than a Sunday afternoon’s worth of entertainment and fun. Her conception of NCC included a specific mission, as she explains, “The series launched in 2009 and, back then, I felt it was silly locals knew the names of chefs on television but not in their own town. I also saw the show as a way to drive interest and understanding of local farms and food producers.”
Seychew has further insights to share in a short interview:
Nickel City Chef Adam Goetz
Can you name some highlights over the years you’ve run NCC?
For our Nickel City chefs, I am guessing the highlights include the publication of our book and our visit to the James Beard House, but for me the highlights are smaller, more personal. I am madly in love with our behind-the-scenes crew. Anytime I get to spend with Mike A [chef Michael Andrzejewski] is a good time. I am deeply honored to have been part of several of the things that pushed Buffalo’s food scene forward, including Nickel City Chef. Anytime an out-of-town judge sees our show for the first time, how blown away they are reminds me that we’ve created something rather special.
What is the legacy of NCC in your opinion?
Showcasing local chefs and farmers to the Buffalo public was our initial goal. It’s hard to believe that up until a few years ago, people who lived here their whole lives had no idea Buffalo is surrounded by farms raising fantastic produce and livestock. What we didn’t realize was that, in the first five or so years of the show, what we were really doing was introducing chefs to chefs and farmers to chefs, and the outcome of that has had more impact on the city’s food scene than anything we did for our lovely audience.
Reason you are stopping now?
NCC has been challenging and rewarding. Outside of having children, it has been the most mixed bag of stress and joy I’ve personally experienced. But, a few years ago, the food scene finally hit its stride, and in my opinion, since then, we’ve been producing the show for the fans and not because it was moving the needle. Our fans are the most dedicated, enthusiastic, and sweetest people, but I am a person who needs to be working toward a greater good, and being entertaining just isn’t enough for me. As a team, I’d also say we’re a little tired! Adam Goetz has been with me from the beginning, as has Mike A, Bert Gambini, and the amazing folks from Artisan. We did what we set out to do: Buffalo knows and loves its amazing chefs and farmers. Now it’s time to do something new.
What’s your prognosis for Buffalo’s new food scene?
Young enthusiasm and new thinking about ingredients and chef-driven dining pushed us out of our collective rut, but right now we have a lot of confusion about who we are and what we want, an identity crisis of sorts. We’re going to grow out of it; there’s no way we won’t, but it’s going to take time and, given our state of confusion and lack of collaboration, there’s no hint as to what we’ll emerge as on the other side: Another Portland? Another Asheville? Or will we be like every city in the country whose restaurants are run by businessmen, where creativity and collaboration are discouraged and profits rule all decisionmaking? It’s tough to say, but rest assured, if there’s an idea worth spreading, people like me will be here to do the work.
Elizabeth Licata is editor of Spree and enjoyed working with Christa Glennie Seychew when Seychew was Spree’s food editor.