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Turtle Grille chef, assistant crowned Top Chef champs

January 25, 2019

Twelve local chefs competed in a cook-off during the 6th annual Top Chef Challenge at the London Bridge Convention Center. Dozens of residents were treated to dinner and a show while the contestants battled to impress three judges in a three-round event.

Shamrock Foods chef and Top Chef Challenge judge, Jack Johnson said, “There will be two rounds with three groups. We will determine our favorite from each round and then they will go head to head in the final round.”

This year’s challenge featured executive chefs, head chefs, sous chefs, and owners from Nautical Beachfront Resort, Shugrue’s, the Refuge, Burgers by the Bridge, College Street Brewhouse and Pub, and Hangar 24.

Round one included head chef, John Andreola and his assistant, Tracey Soule from Nautical Beachfront Resort, Michael McPherson and Harley Chrouser from Shugrue’s who, according to Chrouser were just some line cooks who got thrown into the event, and sous chef, Cainan Redwine and Adam Sweetow, the executive chef from the Refuge.

Round two featured Burgers by the Bridge owner, Harriet Mclearan and her assistant, Jeanne Sampson, chef Gary Chacon and sous chef Tiffiny Taylor from College Street Brewhouse and Pub, and head chef Bret Peters with sous chef, Jeff Sackmaster from Hangar 24.

With 20 minutes on the clock, the teams were told to create a delicious dish using the mystery ingredient, cauliflower. As the contestants scrambled to cook their dishes, the judges walked by each station to assess the situation. The contestants were judged based upon their presentation, the use of the mystery ingredient, creativity, and taste.

At the end of their 20 minutes, the contestants presented their dishes to the judges where Johnson, Jim Riley from Sysco Foods, and a lucky member of the audience were able to taste and critique each dish. After careful consideration, a quick deliberation, and the tallying of their scores, the judges decided on Nautical Beachfront Resort’s pan seared cauliflower with Italian panko bread crumbs and Burgers by the Bridge’s dish.

During the third and final round, two winning teams went head to head to win the coveted Top Chef Challenge trophy. They were given 10 extra minutes and a new mystery ingredient, a huge slab of beef chuck which one member of each team had to butcher in under two minutes. The contest literally heated up as Andreola created a large flame while searing the tenderloin. Mclearan seemed completely at ease at her station as she bid on a live auction item with one hand while tenderizing the meat with a large and heavy hammer in the other.

After 30 intense minutes, Andreola and Soule created a beautiful pan seared tenderloin on top of wild mushroom ragu and glazed carrots while Mclearan and Sampson presented the judges with a deconstructed beef stroganoff with seared beef, sautéed onions, garlic and butter, and roasted radish.

In the end, Andreola and Soule’s dish earned just one more point and they happily accepted the trophy for the Top Chef Challenge.

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