As a chef and restaurateur, Ford is known not only for his creative techniques, but for celebrating the cycle of life and freshness of the earth through his choice and treatment of ingredients.
That makes him a great match for Yuma, which during the winter months supplies more than 90 percent of the nation's leafy vegetables. In fact, Yuma County ranks third in the nation for vegetable production, and its annual agricultural output of more than $3.2 billion accounts for more than a third of the total production for the state of Arizona.
"We're excited to introduce Ben Ford to Yuma and to see what he will be inspired to create from our amazing agricultural bounty," said Linda Jordan, executive director of Yuma Visitors Bureau, which organizes Lettuce Days. "From his appearances on Iron Chef America, The Today Show, Martha Stewart, After Hours with Daniel Boulud, Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Supper Club with Tom Bergeron, and The Food Network Sandwich Challenge, we know he brings a lot of energy to his appearances and will be a real crowd pleaser."
Also attending Lettuce Days this year will be radio personalities Bob & Sheri, whose North Carolina-based show is syndicated nationwide. They will participate in tasting and recipe judging and give fans an opportunity to "meet and greet" the duo. Jordan says plans are already in the works to (celery)stalk the radio hosts with Yuma-grown produce in order to seed advance discussion of the event.
Ford will do live cooking demonstrations - and offer tastes to those in the audience - at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Other activities planned for Yuma's homegrown celebration include other live cooking demonstrations and contests, red-hot ice carvers, a ginormous salad bar and a tasting event that showcases specialties from local restaurants.
Saturday 9:30-10 a.m. - Make a Date with Bob & Sheri
Three big reasons to get cooking with luscious and healthy Medjool dates: Number 1, win cash money donated by Datepac (1st place $250, 2nd place $150, 3rd place $100); Number 2, meet radio personalities Bob & Sheri, who'll help judge the entries; Number 3, dates are delicious, fat-free and high in fiber, who needs another reason? We're looking for the most creative and tasty date recipe here, any category from appetizers to desserts, the sunny Yuma sky's the limit.
Saturday 12 noon-1 p.m. - "Make Me Eat It" Cooking for Kids Challenge
Do you struggle to create healthy meals that kids will actually eat? Bring us your best and tell us what you are doing to fuel your family with healthy food. But be ready: the judges for this contest are the toughest critics - real live kids! This contest is sponsored by POWer Fresh Kids, the company behind the popular POWer PLAY'tes used in Yuma's elementary school cafeterias. Win cash (1st place $250, 2nd place $150, 3rd place $100), plus 365 POWer PLAY'tes for the first-place winner - one for every day of the year to encourage his/her kids to eat healthy.
Saturday 3-4 p.m. - Healthy Eating the RV Way
Eating healthy when you're on the move can be a challenge ... so hit the road around your park and round up the best recipe for a creative and tasty salad using just five ingredients. Besides bragging rights among Yuma RV parks, the winners in this challenge sponsored by Fry's score Fry's gift cards (1st place $250, 2nd place $150, 3rd place $100). Toss it up and throw it down!
Sunday 12 noon -1p.m. - Color Your Plate
It's a proven medical fact that if your plate is full of deep and bright colors, you're on the right path to a healthy diet. The challenge in this contest sponsored by Yuma Regional Medical Center has four elements: make it colorful, make it healthy, make it tasty, and make it with Yuma-grown fruits and vegetables. Cash prizes for this one too: 1st place $250, 2nd place $150, 3rd place $100. Spin your color wheel and get cooking.
Sunday 2-3 p.m. - Heat it Up with Chef Ben Ford
This contest for the sassiest salsa in Yuma offers contestants a chance to get something cookin' with our Lettuce Days headliner, Chef Ben Ford of Ford's Filling Station in Culver City, Calif. During his final live cooking demonstration, Chef Ford will help judge whose homemade salsa best complements the recipe he's preparing especially for Lettuce Days. Our top five entrants will receive a handmade salsa bowl from Colorado River Pottery, plus Chef Ford will autograph the winner's bowl on site. No cash awarded on this one - but seriously, isn't the chance to meet our handsome chef (son of actor Harrison Ford) prize enough? It (he) es muy caliente!