playing the part of judge, take 2

I am one lucky girl.

Now once, but twice in the past two weeks I was asked to judge a culinary competition. And each time I looked at my fellow judges and thought, and they want me, too? Really?

On Sunday, I had the privilege of sitting next to Joe Crea, whom I have so much respect for and genuinely like, and Gary Sitton of Clos du Bois. The three of us were selected as judges in this year’s Culinary Classic for Autism Speaks at the Fabulous Food Show between Dante Boccuzzi and sous chef Jamario Moon, Jonathon Sawyer and sous chef Joey Graham and Steve Schimoler and sous chef J.J. Hickson (it was pretty easy to spot the CAVS sous chefs on stage!). The challenge was hosted by Michael Symon and New Zealand chef Jason Roberts (who will soon have his own show on ABC: The Daily Chew).

I realize I am preaching to the choir here, but can you believe just how lucky we are to have such amazing culinary talent all over this city? Sawyer, Boccuzzi and Schimoler on stage together. Forget crowning one of them the winner – we win!

We were asked to judge each on taste, presentation, originality and wine pairing. Each chef made us an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Yes, I am still full. The chefs could make whatever they’d like, but the dessert had to use Ohio apples.

Honestly, I didn’t have one bite that I didn’t care for. But of course I liked certain dishes more than others. Sawyer started the challenge off with his version of a Caesar salad complete with a ridiculously long poached egg. This was a wonderful salad and the start to one good dish after another. Sawyer was also responsible for my favorite dish of the day: his San Francisco style surf and turf with pork belly and scallops. It was beautifully presented and constructed and something I hope makes its way to his menu soon so you all can try.

Dante, who makes some of my favorite Asian dishes in town, made a wonderful starter of yellowtail hamachi and foie gras with ponzu sauce (almost positive on the ingredients – I didn’t write down the dishes and am going off memory) and hands-down the best dessert I’ve had in awhile – a simple warm apple concoction between crazy swirly strings of phyllo dough . I am not doing this dish justice by my description but it was the perfect fall representation. Comforting, aromatic and ridiculously good. I wanted to pass my plate around the audience but instead selfishly ate every last bite (you would have too).

Steve, who ultimately won the battle, made a version of one of my favorite dishes – chicken and waffles. But his approach to the classic combination was much more fun. And when you dig in and find pieces of lobster stuffed inside the waffle with lobster whipping cream dripping down, well, enough said. This was an inventive take on this dish and a good representation of how I think Steve likes to cook in general. He also wowed us with his dessert: foie and apple tart with cardamom anglaise. Yes kids, foie gras for dessert. Can’t say I’ve had it before but certainly hope I do again.

Despite the heartbreaker over the Jets (though I am still so proud of my Brownies), this was an absolutely perfect Sunday. Thanks to the Fabulous Food Show for extending the invite and a special thank you to the most amazing husband in the world who passed on  tickets to the game to come out and support me along with our little future foodie who wisely flirted with all the chefs, especially the witty Jason Roberts (I think she’s vying for a spot on his upcoming show).


  1. Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Very VERY cool! :) Guy was talking about the contest in his demo on Saturday, and I thought it would be awesome to watch – I can’t even imagine being judge! :D

  2. Posted November 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    How fun and what a great cause!

  3. Posted November 16, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    how awesome! jesus, you look short next to them.