As the 2018 International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off approaches, various chefs from establishments around town prepare to create the pea-related concoction they hope will be voted the favorite dish …
As the 2018 International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off approaches, various chefs from establishments around town prepare to create the pea-related concoction they hope will be voted the favorite dish of the festival. Tre’ Harris, executive chef at Cleveland Country Club, plans a surprise twist with his dish.
“I’m not completely sure what I’m doing yet,” Harris said. “But, I do plan to utilize turkey or chicken in my pea dish.”
Growing up in Patterson, New Jersey, Harris was surrounded by a variety of cultures in his childhood, including Puerto Rican, Mexican, Dominican, Haitian, etc. He said his cooking styles were heavily influenced by these varying regions of exotic flavors in one place.
Upon moving to Tennessee, Harris was taken aback by the unique culture of the foods, as Southern cooking is very different from that of New Jersey. He quickly adapted his style to not only incorporate elements of his hometown’s cultures, but also those of his new home in Tennessee.
“I can say that I’ll be using smoke in the flavoring of my dish. I don’t want to give too much away,” Harris said. “It’s not gonna be what everyone expects; it’ll be very unorthodox.”
Due to the variety of jobs he’s held, Harris has extensive experience working events; however, he said this will be his first local festival to work. This year marks the second year Cleveland Country Club has participated in the Cowpea Festival as well.
Although many Southerners love their traditional, country foods, Harris plans to provide a food that is different, but also delicious to pleasantly surprise the audience’s tastebuds. He also said he's not going to let anyone taste his dish until the day of the festival.
“The people at the festival will be the first ones to taste my peas,” Harris said.
He cites the importance of community events like the Cowpea Festival, and the feeling of connectivity they bring with them. Cooking, as a rule, is one of the most important aspects of Southern culture, and Harris is thrilled to get to be a part of this community effort.
“Things like the Cowpea Festival bring people together, which is important bonding for communities,” Harris added.
Have your appetites ready, because Harris and the other competitors will have a variety of flavors to test out for everyone to decide which is best.
The Cowpea Festival takes place on Sept. 8 at Charleston City Park in Charleston, Tennessee, and runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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