SUGAR GROVE—Area residents gathered at John Shields Elementary School during Corn Boil festivities on Saturday for the announcement of the first annual “Chopped Competition.”
Putting their knowledge of cooking to the test, 13 contestants took on the challenge of taking five ingredients and creating a unique and tasty dish to impress three local judges.
The preselected “basket” items consisted of skirt steak, oranges, elephant garlic, Yukon potatoes and beets, leaving the contestants with nothing more than their imagination to fuel their culinary fire. Participants were required to use each item but were allowed to use any other spice or ingredient to maximize the flavor of their dishes. The judging was based on flavor, creativity and presentation.
Each contestant was given his/her ingredients at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Jewel food store in Sugar Grove, with a 2:30 p.m. deadline to bring their completed dishes to the Corn Boil.
Judges for the event were Rick Artman, a home cook of 20 years who made it to the second round of FOX television’s “Master Chef” series in 2013; Steve Spizz, a chef at Bickford Senior Living Center and owner of the Twisted Fork catering company; and Goldie Tarr Shaw, a professional chef who lost her vision and use of her right arm, and now teaches blind children and adults to cook with LowVisionChef.com.
Local businesses sponsored the cost of the food for the contestants.
The contest winner, Barrett Ekle of Hinckley, presented a skirt steak marinated in a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and fresh squeezed orange juice over fresh sweet corn and jalapeno salsa.
Ekle’s side dish was a combination of Yukon gold and Idaho potatoes mixed with red onion, elephant garlic, bacon, celery and Ekle’s own “Bear Sauce.” Dessert was a red velvet cupcake in which Ekle used the beets as coloring for the cake. The cupcake was topped with a cream cheese and coconut frosting.
As the victor, Ekle received a $100 Jewel Gift Card, a Master Chef Cook Book, trophy and a gold “Chopped Competition” medal shaped into a cluster of corn.
The second-place winner was Laura Perry of Aurora, who was presented with a $50 Jewel Gift Card. The third place finisher was Sugar Grove resident Mary Elliot and her brother Doug Nerge (visiting from Texas), who received a $25 Jewel Gift Card.
This is the first year that contest organizers Dave Ritchey and Darren Staub have hosted the Chopped Competition, and they are already planning for 2014.
“Next year, we are planning to have two levels: amateur and pro,” Ritchey said. “Darren and I have had this idea for a while, and it’s really awesome to see it become a reality.”