Just over a week ago, community members, foodies and Founders Hall supporters gathered in Ridgefield for the fifth annual Battle of the Chefs. Last week we posted a recap of the Battle, announcing the overall winner, Chef Mike Anastacio from Purdy’s The Farmer and the Fish.
The Battle of the Chefs was more than a lively and delicious fundraiser for Founders Hall. It was about community camaraderie and pride, and a time for three local chefs, together with their sous chefs, to shine.
And shine they did.
Today, we want to put a spotlight on Battle of the Chef contestant, Chef Germano Minin and his sous chef. While the duo didn’t earn the top chef prize, and take home the coveted silver pan, they did win in many other ways.
Here’s their story.
Chef Germano Minin’s sous chef was his 7 year old son, Giovanni, or Gio, to his friends at Branchville Elementary School.
And having Gio by his side in the kitchen was not only a dream come true to for Minin, but a walk down memory lane.
A good part of Minin’s childhood was spent in the kitchen, inside his family’s restaurant. He recalls when he was 7 and would eagerly run into the restaurant after school. Minin take a seat at one of the many restaurant tables and quickly do his homework so he could join his father in the kitchen.
“I had to change from my school uniform to something scruffy and get ready to peel potatoes, crack eggs for the frittata, prepare the skewers for the meat and vegetable spiedini.” he says.
When the slicing, dicing, and peeling were complete, Minin would go outside to cook. “That's where the grill and the fryer were. I had to get on top of a milkcrate to reach over the grill. When my dad whistled to me from the kitchen, I had to turn the spiedini over on one side,” recalls Minin.
Looking back with fond memories, Minin says, “My heart is filled with joy because my parents were there, present in my life and even though they were busy, they wanted me close to them.”
Minin wants to give Gio the gift his parents gave him. While the duo cook together at home, participating in the culinary battle at Founders Hall on Sunday, June 4, left an indelible mark on both father and son.
“Gio was so happy about being my sous chef. He couldn't believe he was able to be with me in the midst of the craziness and excitement of the cooking event,” says Minin. “To me it was the highlight of the whole competition,” he adds.
And, when the kitchen heated up, Gio knew what to do to keep his dad cool.
“At about 15-20 minutes into the battle, the host, Ken Tuccio, asked him: How do you think is your dad is doing right now on a scale from one to ten?" And he said FIVE! I looked at him and I thought (as I was chopping the peppers) that he might be right...I needed to step up the game!” says Germano. “That's when I got the clear vision in my head of what my final dish was going to be,” he says.
Gio headed for the pantry, searched for the ingredients, got the blender going, and kept his dad on top of the ticking clock.
“At one point, he came a little too close to the stove and I had to tell him to move away; he said to me: Papa don't, I can help you win!”
And that he did. The father-son duo whipped up a "Mediterranean Surf & Turf" comprised of fresh herb rubbed ribeye steak served with sunchokes and fennel purée and a chocolate and charred spicy peppers. The blistered octopus was served over heirloom roasted tomatoes, topped with sauté asparagus, and roasted vegetables caponata with toasted almonds.
Their entree would soon be announced as the winner. And while they didn’t win the overall competition, adding love to the list of ingredients made their cup runneth over.
“When your own son believes in you without a shadow of doubt, and you're a winner in his eyes, amazing feelings of joy permeate you, restore you and remind you that to him, you're the center of his universe and you want at that moment, be able to inspire him, give him hope, confidence and genuine understanding that life is a beautiful gift. He's my lifetime's sous-chef,” says Minin.