Local chefs face off
August 31, 2010
Squaring off to test their culinary skills in the St. Regis Chef Challenge, Chef Michael LeClerc of 350 Main Brasserie and Chef Seth Adams of Riverhorse on Main entered the Main Stage of the Park Silly Sunday Market to the beat of rock music and were introduced to the crowd by event emcee Jason Kieffer, of The Healing Palate.
Chip McMullin, Executive Chef at St. Regis Deer Crest Resort, presented the competitors with identical coolers of fresh local ingredients assembled that morning from the St. Regis kitchens. The St Regis coolers were brimming with a bounty of intriguing items including tai snapper, filet mignon, tiger shrimp, passion fruit puree, baby fennel, shallots, asparagus, mitake mushrooms, fresh corn, red cipollini onions, carrots, peaches, plums, fingerling potatoes, salad greens, and assorted fresh herbs including basil and chervil.
The chefs gained valuable support in the work of two volunteer "prep chefs" selected from the audience Debbi Frankel of Naples, Fla., assisted Chef Adams, and Rick Mahrle of Phoenix assisted Chef LeClerc.
While the chefs and their assistants labored at a furious pace, the audience observed, snapped photos and posed questions for the chefs, while enjoying passed samples from 350 Main Brasserie and Riverhorse on Main.
With only 40 minutes to work, a couple of portable gas burners, and some basic kitchen equipment set out on folding tables before the audience, Chef Adams and Chef LeClerc quickly focused on the job at hand. Working under bright blue skies and with the encouragement of a large, fascinated and animated crowd, the two competing chefs crafted the required three dishes plus a blended fresh drink.
In amazingly short order, the competitors assembled an impressive array of food. Chef LeClerc presented a Peruvian shrimp ceviche with corn, lime, asparagus and fennel; a Mediterranean-style Tai Snapper crusted in Herbes de Provence with basil vinaigrette and goat cheese; and tournedos of filet with peppercorn glaze, mitake mushrooms and buerre noisette; and a melon smoothie with a splash of white wine, garnished with marinated peaches and vanilla powder.
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Chef Adams offered up seared filet with mitake mushrooms, seasoned with horseradish and a chipotle pan sauce accompanied by fresh corn succotash and fingerling potatoes; a pistachio-crusted Tai Snapper topped with caramelized plum and crystallized ginger sauce; and a green salad with shrimp, goat cheese and olives finished with a fresh avocado dressing. His drink creation was a passion fruit and summer melon smoothie made with white wine and yogurt, garnished with fresh peach.
The results of the chefs’ inspirations were evaluated on the basis of creativity, presentation, flavor and texture, appropriate temperature and menu development by a panel of expert judges: Mary Malouf, Executive & Dining Editor for Salt Lake Magazine, Stan Kaminski, General Manager of St. Regis Deer Crest Resort, assisted by his 11-year-old daughter, Olivia Kaminski, and Chef Jason Kieffer of The Healing Palate.
After much deliberation, the judges announced the following awards: Best Drink Chef LeClerc ‘s melon smoothie; Best Fish Chef Adams’ pistachio encrusted Tai Snapper; Best Filet Chef LeClerc’s tournedos of filet with peppercorn glaze; and Best Shrimp Chef Adams’ shrimp with fresh salad greens.
The talents were so well matched that the panel of judges declared the competition a draw. Both chefs were awarded gift certificates for dinner at J&G Grill, the signature Jean-George Vongerichten restaurant at the St. Regis Deer Crest Resort.
As the judges departed and the chefs commenced cleaning up their work stations, the tantalizing remains of their efforts were quickly consumed by the crowd who polished off every morsel within moments.
The St. Regis Chef Challenge takes place on the last Sunday of each month. The final Chef Challenge of the summer will take place on Sunday, Sept. 26, from 1 to 2 p.m. with new chefs testing their talents, new judges evaluating the results, and new chefs’ assistants being selected from the audience at the Main Stage of the Park Silly Sunday Market.
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