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Shopping with Chef Dale Levitski at the Farmers Market in Missoula, Montana

Montana Watermelon at the Clark Fork Farmers Market

This past Saturday I had the great pleasure of getting to shadow Chef Dale Levitski as he shopped for produce at the Clark Fork Farmers Market in Missoula, Montana. Dale first came to my attention when I saw him on Season 3 of Top Chef (that was the Miami version, where Padma’s hair was constantly battling the humidity).

Chef Dale Levitski selecting mint

When I first made contact with Dale about meeting at the Clark Fork Farmers Market he told me, “the market is beautiful, better than Chicago for sure” I was a bit skeptical. Could Missoula, Montana really have a better Farmers Market than Chi-town? He was not kidding. Not only was the Farmers Market produce gorgeous, but there was so much pride in presentation.

Basil $1

Dale has been the resident guest chef at the Resort at Paws Up for the summer and is staying through the end of October so he’ll be the for the Montana Master Chefs event September 26-29th as well as the Upper Crust Pie Camp October 11-14th. Dale is very personable and has developed relationships with all the local farmers.

Regional Montana Produce at the Clark Fork Market

Since Dale is cooking for a large number of guests, he was sometimes the first (and last) customer of the day, buying out the farmers entire supply of produce. The day I was shadowing him, he was shopping for all the produce for 40 people for his Last Best Supper at Paws Up, so he placed his orders first and then looped back with his line cooks Kyle and Alex in tow to pick up his merchandise.


The Clark Fork Farmers Market is also insanely cheap. Montana is one of the 5 states which has no sales tax, so all the prices were either even on the dollar or fifty cents. You pretty much don’t need pennies, nickels or dimes at the Clark Fork Market.

Chef Dale Levitski selecting tomatoes

Last week the produce was peaking at the market. It was interesting hearing the farmers talk about what produce is still in season, “these are the last of the beans. No more beans this year.”

Left: Dale selecting edible lilies  Right: Lilies at the Caras Park Farmers Market

Dale went out of his way to make sure I got to taste a few not-to-be missed items, like the peaches, which were the juiciest and best I had ever tasted. If you think all great peaches would hail from Georgia, you are sorely mistaken. The strawberries were so sweet they tasted as though they had been dipped in sugar.

Chef Dale & a Bouquet

It was also interesting to see how hands on Dale was with the whole vision of the dinner. He selected the flowers (some for eating, some for decor) and started the morning with a cup of coffee that he purchased to include in his chocolate pre-dessert.

Mushrooms packed and ready to go

The Clark Fork Market in Missoula  runs every Saturday from May- October from 8am-1pm The market is located under the Higgins Street Bridge in Downtown Missoula, next to Caras Park.