Pittsburgh chef, former Steeler team for ‘Taste of the NFL’ to benefit food bank
In a way, Scott Walton and Andy Russell have been a part of the same team — only at different times.
Russell was a linebacker and part of the “Steel Curtain” defense for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s until he retired from professional football and went into business.
Walton served as the executive chef at Heinz Field, the Steelers stadium, when he and his wife, Maggie, moved to Pittsburgh in 2014 from Chicago. He is now the executive chef at Acorn in Shadyside, a restaurant that he and his partners Brian Singer and Jason Akemann opened in fall 2017.
Russell and Walton will represent Pittsburgh on Feb. 2 at “Taste of the NFL,” an annual fundraiser held the night before the Super Bowl, in this year’s host city of Atlanta, Ga.
This is Russell’s 10th year as the Steelers ambassador supporting the cause to combat hunger and Walton’s first year as his partner and chef charged with creating a dish for the event.
The $700-a-ticket strolling food and wine event, also known as the “Party with a Purpose,” will take place at 7 p.m. on Super Bowl Eve, at the Cobb Galleria Centre. Proceeds will benefit food pantries across the country, including the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
The event features a chef from each NFL city serving their signature dish alongside a current or alumni NFL player. Guests can sample fine cuisine, meet and mingle with the chefs and players and participate in a silent auction with sports memorabilia and other items.
“We will be presenting a BBQ celeriac, fried ‘rice,’ ”
Walton said, “composed of peanuts that have been braised in coconut, lemon grass and kaffir lime until soft and then extruded to represent the size and texture of rice. The milk and umboshi (salted cured Japanese plum) — braised celeriac will be grilled and have the texture of meat. Bean sprouts, apple and kimchi vinaigrette finish the dish.”
Bagels a huge hit
As another part of the fundraiser for the food banks, Walton is selling his “housemade everything bagels” prepared a few different ways for $12 each during weekend brunch at his restaurant.
“Verlasso (a sustainable, open-ocean salmon producer) was kind enough to donate 200 pounds of salmon, which has been prepared three different ways: beet-cured lox with dill and dukkah, pastrami salmon with coffee and molasses and hot smoked salmon schmear. It’s been a huge hit — something that has inspired my next endeavor here in Pittsburgh.”
Walton and Steve Paul, his sous chef at Acorn, will fly to Atlanta on Feb. 1, where he will have a small amount of prep time that day.
“Most of the work will be done on Saturday,” he said. “I have been coordinating half of the product to be delivered by Atlanta purveyors, and the rest of the product I will FedEx on Thursday from Pittsburgh. It’s a bit nerve-wracking knowing the sheer size of the Super Bowl, then including shipping and possible weather challenges.”
He said they’re going to “cross our fingers and hope it’s all there when we arrive; if not, we will look at it as a quick-fire challenge!”
Those who won’t be in Atlanta can find out about the Kick Hunger Challenge, for which donations will be accepted until Feb. 3 in the name of an NFL team with proceeds benefitting each city’s local food pantry.
Details are at kickhunger
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.