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Flip this: Farmers' markets are center stage in new Cooking Channel competition

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Andrew Warren / TV Media
Jeff Mahin hosts “Farmers' Market Flip”

Jeff Mahin hosts “Farmers' Market Flip”

Farmers' markets are popping up everywhere these days, and with good reason: They're a fantastic way to get the freshest possible ingredients, not to mention that meeting the people who've actually grown and raised the foods just makes produce seem that much tastier in the end. Plus, they're just a great way to get outdoors and spend a morning in a thriving, friendly atmosphere.

The pros love farmers' markets, too, and Cooking Channel has put together a fun little competition to find out which chefs can best honor the local ingredients that are unique to every market. "Farmers' Market Flip" premiered last month, and currently airs Thursday evenings on the culinary channel.

In each episode, the youthful chef Jeff Mahin swings by a different farmers' market, where he meets up with two teams of culinary professionals to see which, over the course of a day, can best please the market's discerning patrons.

In this week's episode, airing Thursday, May 18, Mahin is in Channel Islands, California, where he meets up with chefs Michele Ragussis and Penny Davidi, who are eager to challenge chefs Ben Diaz and Hugo Miranda. First up is the Flavor of the Market challenge, where the chefs take the market's signature local product and transform it into something entirely new -- and sinfully delicious.

In Channel Islands, that local favorite is strawberries: specifically, strawberry shortcake and funnel cake. After transforming the sweets into exciting new dishes, the chefs move on to the Feed the Market challenge.

The stakes are much higher here. After a 20-minute shopping spree, the teams each put together a pop-up kitchen, where they have an hour to prepare dishes that hungry shoppers get to enjoy -- and judge.

For the chefs competing in the seaside Channel Islands, it's no surprise that the full bounty of the sea is available right on the very docks that the local fishers use. Their dishes have to highlight this oh-so-fresh seafood and wow the locals, with the team that pleases the most palates winning a $5,000 check.

Catch the new episode of "Farmers' Market Flip," airing Thursday, May 18, on Cooking Channel.