"Certain things will come from Maryland or Virginia or Jersey," Isabella said. "Certain things will come from here and there. We only can do so much. My focal point is getting pepperoni from someone in Virginia [instead of ] getting it from Italy. We want to source everything locally, and whatever we can't get locally, we focus on domestically."
Baltimore chefs in and out of farm-to-table restaurants said they appreciated the efforts.
"At the end of the day it's more about sustainability and ethics," said Chris Becker of Fleet Street Kitchen, which serves a seasonal menu featuring produce grown at the restaurant's private farm. "[Farm to Table is about] not using factory farm ingredients and using local farms whenever with you can."
And standards for farm-to-table, Becker acknowledged, vary from place to place. "If it were true farm-to-table, you couldn't use lemons or limes," he said.
Chad Gauss, chef and owner of the Food Market in Hampden, said that farm-to-table doesn't have to mean local. "If they're looking at it as regional, it makes complete sense," Gauss said.
But both Becker and Gauss did have some concerns about other local credentials — Isabella's.
"I think it's great to have a celebrity chef," Gauss said. "And I respect every chef and every chef's craft. Any chef who chooses to put on the apron and put in the hours gets my support. But if it's farm-to-table, the chef should be from Baltimore."
"I was a little surprised that it wasn't a Baltimore-based chef," Becker said. "At the same time I just hired a chef, Chris Amendola, who wasn't from Baltimore."
One Baltimore chef will have a prominent role on Saturday. Jonah Kim, executive chef at Pabu, the Japanese restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, will be creating the sushi bar in the International Pavilion, which this year is featuring a Japanese theme. And Kim's Pabu colleague, Tiffany Soto, a master sake sommelier, is supervising the beverage program for the pavilion's invited guests.
Isabella, who is opening three new restaurants this year, seemed ready for Saturday, but he acknowledged some fatigue.
"It's definitely a challenge. I've never done anything like this before, for 6,000 people," Isabella said. "But it's gone a lot smoother than I thought it would."
Not all of Isabella's fatigue was work-related, though. He had recently attended the Kentucky Derby.
"It was an amazing experience," Isabella said. "But I had a better time at Preakness."
Here's what chef Mike Isabella has planned for diners at the Turfside Terrace and Preakness Village:
The Bakery and Gourmet Cafe
Gourmet Coffee and Tea Selections, Fresh Squeezed Juices
Warmed Croissants and Muffins, Seasonal Fruit Salad, Yogurt Parfait
Village Raw Bar