W hen you’ve got sweet butternut squash, leafy green kale and late fall sweet corn coming up, there’s no sense mourning the loss of summer tomatoes.

At least that’s what Andy Husbands (pictured top right) believes.

“Fall is the best time ever,” the chef and former contestant of the Fox reality series Hell’s Kitchen said this week before making his way to the Vineyard for the third annual food and wine festival. “It’s what I like about New England – the excitement of the changing of the seasons. For us, we’re just coming off the tomatoes, but we’re moving on to squashes, to kale, to the heartier greens. Our cooking styles change a little bit. It’s not the heavy stuff of winter yet, but it’s a bit more comforting.” At his South End restaurant Tremont 647, that means summer menu items like wild salmon with potatoes is gone. In its place is roasted cod with white wine and tarragon served alongside braised cabbage. “We’re not doing the heavy braises or heavier soups quite yet. The cooking is still light,” said Mr. Husbands, 39.

The third annual Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival kicks off at 5:30 tonight with a celebrity chef event featuring Mr. Husbands and another reality TV veteran — Top Chef finalist Stefan Richter (left), chef and owner of Stefan’s at LA Farm. The two will grill organic beef tenderloin and local seafood while festival emcee Dan Michaud of Ruby Wines pours the beverages.

The event is just the beginning for a three-day festival that touts enjoying the local and savoring the delicious. After Friday’s kick-off soiree, Edgartown restaurants will open their doors for wine dinners highlighting their chefs’ favorite vintners. Saturday continues with a number of seminars on everything from cheese to chocolate, tours of Katama’s oyster flats and a grand tasting event featuring Island and celebrity chefs, cookbook authors and local produce. Ticket prices to the festival’s various events differ and can be purchased online at mvfoodandwine.com, or at the door.

Among the events Saturday is Mr. Husbands’s 2 p.m. seminar What Does a Tomato Taste Like? “This is my favorite conversation to have,” he said. “It’s the inherent problem in America. We don’t think about what our food tastes like. My goal as a chef and as someone fascinated with food is to get people to understand what you can do with just a little sea salt and a little EV,” he said, tossing in the foodie’s acronym for extra virgin olive oil.

“Here’s the point. What does a tomato taste like? It tastes like a garden. It tastes sweet and sour and earthy and ripe. And then you get into all the different variety of tomatoes,” Mr. Husbands continued. “If you really taste a tomato, and then you know what a tomato tastes like, then we won’t eat what passes for tomatoes come January.”

But can the chef and owner of one of Boston’s more popular restaurants really do without tomatoes in January? “Fair enough,” Mr. Husbands said. “But there are hothouse tomatoes that are grown locally and those are delicious. Or, depending on how adventurous you are, you can get in your car right now and go to a farm, buy a bunch of bruised tomatoes and make tomato ketchup or tomato sauce. Honestly, I do have a burger on my menu and people, they need to have their tomato. But I don’t think it’s all or nothing. Becoming green, becoming an advocate of the local, it comes from conversations.”

Starting that conversation is what the Vineyard food and wine festival is all about. “It’s the flavor principle. It’s letting the ingredients shine,” said Mr. Husbands, whose run on Hell’s Kitchen ended early last month. He was the 10th chef cut.

At his Saturday seminar, Mr. Husbands will teach participants how to make mango shrimp salad, minted Brussels sprouts, salsa (gotta use up those tomatoes while they’re still around), chicken chicharones and lime sour cream. Sound daunting? “I guarantee that every single thing I make, they can do it,” said Mr. Husbands, who also participated in last year’s festival. “It’s chef/restaurant quality at home, no problem.”

When at home, Mr. Husbands keeps it simple by buying what’s best at his local farmers’ market. “I go for what’s fun, what’s seasonal,” he said. “I say, choose a protein you want and an area of the world.”

When on the Vineyard, Mr. Husbands opts for a drive up to Menemsha and dinner at the Home Port. “I know it’s just boiled lobster, but I love the freakin’ Home Port,” he said. “I go out there and it’s just calm. You see the boats, you see some of the most beautiful sunsets.”

At the end of the day, Mr. Husbands said the key to a delicious meal is letting yourself have a little fun in the kitchen: “I’m a fan of people just doing what they like and enjoying it.”