On alternating Saturday mornings, “vegetable butchers” Tony Bien and Stephen Velie have a station set up at Overland Park Farmers’ Market, ready to help customers do more with their produce.
“People buy incredible produce here,” Bien noted. “We want to elevate it to where it can be.”
They teach customers how to wash, cut, prep and cook fresh seasonal produce they’ve purchased at the market. It’s a new educational program at the market from the Culinary Center of Kansas City, whose mission is to connect community and food.
An instructor at the Culinary Center since 2009, Bien’s specialty is prepping and cooking fruits and vegetables.
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“We show people how to peel their produce,” Bien said. “With the majority of fruits and vegetables, most of the vitamins and minerals are right under the skin. We try to help customers find a balance between making their items both edible and nutritious.”
The team also helps point people to the array of choices offered at the market.
“We can help people learn to prepare and cook vegetables they might not know about,” said Nicole Bien, Tony’s wife and assistant at the Saturday markets. “Then, they’ll go and buy the vegetables. This helps the local farmers and creates a ripple effect.”
During a recent Saturday, Bien was at the helm when Kim Wulff of Olathe stopped by with some carrots and beets she needed carved. She also asked Bien for cooking suggestions.
“I boil all of my vegetables,” she said. “I want to learn something besides boiling.”
Bien offered Wulff several options, including roasting and grilling.
Educating the public about cooking is the heart of the 22-year-old Culinary Center, Tony Bien said.
“But, we also learn from our customers. It’s a co-op of knowledge and sharing here.”