When Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley hosts the state's Buy Local Cookout on July 21 at Government House, the governor's residence in Annapolis, a few flavors from Towson and Timonium will be on the menu.
The cookout is intended to launch Maryland's Buy Local Challenge Week, July 23 through 31, during which residents are encouraged to eat at least one locally grown, made or harvested product each day.
Of the 30 recipes submitted by Maryland chefs for the event, 17 were chosen for the invitation-only event in which chefs vie to take part in the feast.
Towson and Timonium are represented among the lucky 17, including Bill Crouse, who has been executive sous chef for about two months at Chef's Expressions, a catering company on Deereco Road, in Timonium.
Using local produce is not a minor point for the 31-year-old Canton resident.
"It's probably the most important thing for me to care about," Crouse said.
That's because buying fish, meat and crops from local producers creates less pollution than food shipped to Maryland from elsewhere, and it supports the local economy, he said.
"And it makes me seasonably change the menu based on what's available," Crouse said.
Crouse is concerned about pollution. When a crate of eggs travels from the Midwest to Maryland via truck, it not only creates more engine exhaust before reaching the kitchen – as opposed to a local delivery – it also allows greater opportunity for accidents, oil spills and other sources of pollution, he said.
"We all need to think about the pollution, and more travel means more pollution altogether," he said.
Crouse cares about local growers because he grew up rubbing elbows with them in Churchville, in Harford County. He remembers going to church with local farmers, and after church "all the tailgates would come down."
Corn farmers would exchange a few ears for eggs from a chicken farmer, or milk for vegetables, right there outside the church.
"It's just a good way to live," Crouse said.
That passion for local farms aided Crouse's entry in the contest. The governor invited chefs to team up with local food producers for the event. Crouse chose lamb from Springfield Farms in Sparks, in northern Baltimore County, where Chef's Expressions regularly buys eggs.
"I picked Springfield Farms because they're one of my favorite local farms," he said.
With the lamb as the core of his recipe, Crouse created a roulade of spring lamb with pine nuts and apricots, and an heirloom tomato gazpacho.
The gazpacho Crouse created was influenced by John Walsh, executive chef of Chef's Expressions.
"His gazpacho has a nice zing that would go with the lamb," Crouse said.
Walsh, 54, lives in York, Pa., and has been with Chef's Expressions for about eight years. Buying local produce for the dinner table is also how Walsh grew up.
"I was green before it was hip to be green," he said.