Monday, June 15, 2009

An Amateur Chef Takes on the Pros

By Pat Tanner

In a twist on the usual chef cook-off competition format, the upcoming challenge in the newly renovated 20,000 square-foot showroom at Mrs. G’s TV & Appliance in Lawrenceville will pit three of central Jersey’s most popular restaurant chefs against not just each other, but against a talented (and brave) amateur as well. In the balance hang a flat-screen TV, a two-page magazine spread, and, of course, bragging rights.

Contestants in the Iron Chef-like competition will be Jason Hensle of Salt Creek Grille in Princeton, Peter Nowakoski of Rat’s Restaurant in Hamilton, Eben Copple of the Yardley Inn (just across the river in PA), and Randy Forrester of Hopewell, a recent graduate of Boston University with a B.S. in Hospitality Administration. As part of his training, Forrester interned at the Ryland Inn and with celebrity chefs Scott Conant and Fabio Trabocchi.

Each of the four contestants will be cooking live on Viking, Miele, Gaggenau, and Thermidor equipment. Ingredients are being donated by McCaffrey’s markets, and the chefs’ offerings will be voted on both by the public who attend the free event and a panel of professional judges, including yours truly. Joining me will be Frank Benowitz of the hospitality program at Mercer County Community College and Colin Marsh, culinary arts instructor at Bucks County Technical High School and former chef at the Cottage Club, a Princeton eating club.

Each contestant will prepare an appetizer, entrĂ©e, and dessert, including tastings for guests to sample and to vote on for the people’s choice award. Our panel of three professional judges will score points based on originality, technique, presentation, seasonality/use of local ingredients, and taste.

Mrs. G’s 1st Annual Chef Challenge takes place on Thursday, June 25 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Mrs. G TV & Appliances, 2960 Route 1, Lawrenceville. Admission is free; a donation to the United Way of Greater Mercer is welcomed.

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