Tal Petty had just finished sampling the pork bulgogi on the grounds of the Maryland governor’s mansion in Annapolis Thursday night. He scanned the table, looking for a business card, anything that would let him know the name of the restaurant where he could eat more of this sweet and tangy Korean dish.
Finally, he asked the woman who was filling small white plates with chunks of pork and slices of cucumbers: “Where’s your restaurant? Do you have a card?”
Yumi Hogan looked puzzled. Then it dawned on her: He thought she was an actual chef or restaurant owner. “I live right here,” Maryland’s first lady said smiling, pointing to the governor’s mansion just beyond the tents.
Petty, an oyster farmer from St. Mary’s County, tried to apologize. His flattered server, draped in a white apron over a floral print dress and blue jacket, said she welcomed the compliment.
“That’s good to know,” said Yumi Hogan, who has shared culinary tips from her native South Korea with Medford Canby, head chef at Government House for 30 years. “My husband and daughters always say they don’t want to go to a restaurant.”
The first lady was one of 15 chefs who participated in the annual Buy Local Cookout to kick off Maryland’s “Buy Local Challenge Week,” which is designed to encourage families in the state to incorporate one locally grown, produced or harvested product into their meals each day. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has designated Sunday as the start of the challenge, and it will last one week.
“But I don’t just want to have a week,” Hogan said to the crowd. “I want you to pledge every week of the year.” Agriculture contributes $8.25 billion annually to Maryland’s economy and accounts for 45,600 jobs, state officials said.
Chefs were invited to submit recipes that would highlight the diversity of Maryland’s products. Petty wasn’t the only one taken aback by the dish presented by Yumi Hogan, who grew up on a farm in the Korean countryside.
“I didn’t know she was going to be here,” said Amy Hoffman, a junior at the University of Maryland and a summer intern at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “I think it’s awesome that she is involved like that, being one of the chefs here, since she is the governor’s wife.”
Hogan said she was excited about sharing part of her heritage and encouraging people to use locally grown food. “This is so important,” she said.
More than 400 people — a mix of farmers, grocery store buyers and their families, and elected and appointed officials — went from tent to tent, sampling items including the “Guinea Hog” pulled pork sandwich with kale slaw topping, peach and goat cheese upside-down cobbler and smoked grilled chicken kabobs.
There was a crab, corn and tomato bisque prepared by David Wells of Evolution Craft Brewing Co. Public House in Wicomico County. The bisque used tomatoes from a farm in Wicomico, crab meat from a seafood company in Somerset County and herbs from a Wicomico garden.
The cucumbers in the salad with Hogan’s dish were harvested at a farm in Caroline County.
Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder said that the event, which began seven years ago under Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), is a welcome opportunity to highlight the work of farmers, whose livelihoods can sometimes conflict with environmental efforts to limit pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
Shortly after taking office, Hogan blocked regulations, proposed by O’Malley, that would have reduced runoff by limiting the amount of chicken manure farmers could use on their fields.
Farmers said that the regulations would have been detrimental to the industry’s future.
In February, Hogan submitted a compromise that he said would help clean up the bay but be less onerous. It includes a ban of additional phosphorus on fields that test the highest for it, a test of phosphorus levels on farms across the state and additional money to help the state Department of Agriculture prepare for the new rules.
“I know I have a partner on the second floor [of the State House] who is working to improve farming in this state,” Bartenfelder said.