Ridgefield became a culinary battleground on Sunday afternoon as three seasoned chefs descended upon Founder’s Hall for the 5th Annual Battle of the Chefs.
The epic culinary showdown began with attendees mingling, tasting, and voting on one of three appetizers, each created by the three competing chefs: Mike Anastacio (Purdy's Farmer & the Fish), Paul Desiano (formerly Cello, now Ridgefield Academy), and Germano Minin (The Village Tavern). The culinary challenge: to prepare a tantalizing dish using the required ingredient - crab.
The small bites were packed with big flavors and fresh, savory ingredients. Chef Mike created fresh crab salad with shaved farm vegetables and sauce tonnato. Chef Paul made a Taylor Bay Scallop with Celery Yuzu juice and three flavors of crab dipping dots. Chef Germano whipped up a "Crablet" - brisee tartlet filled with crabmeat, smoked pancetta, black truffle, celery root, topped with tempura-gin battered crab claw, finished with corn shoot and lobster roe mayo.
Next, guests were whisked to a tent outside, where a "Chopped" style kitchen had been created. Three work stations, three gas ranges, and a pantry stocked with a range of ingredients. The crowd watched with anticipation as a basket of the surprise ingredients was unveiled: boneless ribeye steak, baby octopus, chocolate, and Jerusalem artichokes.
BAM. The heat was ON and the fire HOT. Ken Tuccio, host of 95.9 Fox radio's First Thing broadcast, turned the heat up by asking the Chefs’ questions, engaging the audience, and keeping a keen eye on the clock.
Sixty minutes to slice, dice, grill, garnish, plate and WOW the foodie judges in the entree competition.
Ron DeSantis, director of culinary excellence at Yale University, Brendan Walsh, dean of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America, and former owner/executive chef at The Elms in Ridgefield, and Monica Brown, expert Sommelier, Cheesemonger, and owner of 109 Cheese and Wine, judged chefs on their creativity, craftsmanship and culinary results.
Chef Mike prepared chocolate and chili spiced ribeye with warm eggplant and octopus salad, sunchoke-chocolate purée and chips.
Chef Paul created apple smoked ribeye dusted in shiitake powder and baby octopus infused spaetzle with duck fat confit sunchoke purée, pickled radish and parsley salad and apricot chocolate wine sauce.
Chef Germano created a "Mediterranean Surf & Turf" comprised of fresh herb rubbed ribeye steak served with sunchokes and fennel purée and a chocolate and charred spicy peppers. His blistered octopus was served over heirloom roasted tomatoes, topped with sauté asparagus, and roasted vegetables caponata with toasted almonds.
Guests gathered inside Founders Hall where the panel of judges let their palates do the talking.
Judge Brendan Walsh said, “Being a chef is all about planning, so the fact that these chefs had no planning time and had 60 minutes to get it done...they jumped right in! I was blown away by how quickly they moved into action.” Walsh added, “All the chefs nailed the octopus and showed unbelievable creativity.”
Ken Tuccio had the tough job of announcing the winners.
In the appetizer round, Chef Mike Anastacio of Purdy’s The Farmer and the Fish took the prize. Before announcing the entree winner, Tuccio remarked, “The entree round was insanely close.” Germano Minin of The Village Tavern, won the judges over.
There can be only one top chef in the 2017 Battle of the Chefs, winning overall was Chef Anastacio.
The talented chef remarked, “I'm forever grateful for the amazing opportunity to participate to a great cause!”
Thanks to all Battle of the Chefs participants and attendees for supporting Founders Hall and helping them to continue their mission of providing lifelong learning to more than 3,600 people.
Learn more about Founders Hall here.