So I had a capital B-last at tonight’s second-annual Covenant House Chef’s Challenge Dinner (http://bit.ly/AexpKS), an elegant fund-raiser at the Clay Center in which five local chefs each created a gourmet dish for several hundred guests consisting of ingredients found in a typical food pantry.
It was a great evening of friends, fellowship and do-gooding – or would it be good-doing?
Either way, let’s get to the food!
There were five chefs, five creative dishes – and not a bad one in the bunch …
- Chef Joe Zando of Catering Unlimited started things off with a really nice Creamy White Bean & Sausage Soup. The sausage of choice (chorizo) gave the soup a slightly spicy bite, and I loved the rustic texture featuring pureed white beans along with whole beans for “oomph.”
The next three dishes, served together family-style, included …
- Edgewood Country Club Chef Jeremy Still’s Caribbean Spiced Tuna Cakes, which took me back to one of my all-time favorite childhood dinners – my mom’s awesome tuna croquettes. Only difference here is these were drizzled with a zippy crème.
- Embassy Suites Chef Mark Schnurrpusch added a nice broth-boosted quinoa that was very couscous-y.
- And Thomas Memorial Hospital Chef Mark Sabal prepared awesome Fresh Southern Green Beans, perfectly cooked to al dente then tossed with sautéed onions, bacon, red peppers and chicken stock. Delicious.
And then, the hit of the night …
- “Semi-retired” former Bluegrass Kitchen Chef Gary Needham finished things up in grand style with a show-stopping Low Country Sweet Potato-Pecan Pie with Bluegrass Whipped Cream. Loved the sweet potato influence, which made the dessert rich and fulfilling, but toned back in the sugar department, and – OH! – that cream!! Everyone at the table kept saying, how does he do that? Well, I know. Instead of traditional whipped cream, he whisks up a thick, rich, decadent heavy cream-mascarpone-cream cheese that looks like a big scoop of ice cream plopped on top.
Although all dishes turned out great, that result wasn’t guaranteed going in. So why do these chefs subject themselves to such a challenge? Chef Zando explained it this way:
Any chef can take great ingredients and turn them into a great dish. But there’s something special about taking “peasant food” and turning it into something great.
And as for the Covenant House charity forum …
“There are so many food challenges these days, but we chose this one,” Zando explained. “The call to serve is a powerful one.”