This past weekend I finally had the chance to judge one of the cooking competitions at The Chattanooga Market – the 2017 Five Star Food Fight! I’ve been waiting years for someone to ask me to do something like this and finally got my chance when Melissa, one of the owners of Chattanooga Magazine who also runs the Market called me last week to see if I was game to judge this event that concludes Restaurant Week!
I felt like a bit of an imposter when I got up on stage to judge with the likes of my buddy Charlie Loomis, the executive chef at Feed Co. (one of my favorite restaurants) and Jim Gallivan, a chef and the program director at Culinard (the culinary program at Virginia College), along with Mike McCloud, the president and CEO of the World Food Championships and Dale Faunce from Springer Mountain Farms. Um, you guys, what is my life now????? Dyan Damron, a health coach from the Nashville area, emceed the event.
(Photo of judges from Dyan Damron’s Facebook page)
I’m hoping that if I get a few of these things under my belt I’ll feel a little less nervous. I was kind of freaking a little bit when they told me I was going to have to speak into the microphone. I’m not afraid of public speaking – I do it all the time – but I was just a little unprepared. If you saw me I hope I didn’t look too redonkulous.
Anyway, let’s talk about the food. Springer Mountain Farms sponsored the Food Fight so the chefs were given chicken thighs, breasts, and livers to work with, along with $50 to purchase ingredients from the market. That meant that the food that we were served was ultra-fresh and local. It doesn’t get much better than that, people. I’m going to be honest, I was pushed a little bit as I had not eaten chicken livers since I was a kid and my grandmother used to fry them up. Back then I really didn’t realize what they were. But, you know, I’m a big girl so I ate my chicken livers like a big girl, and you know what? They were pretty good.
Chef Tanner Marino from Broad Street Grille was up first with this plate of popcorn chicken thighs and livers, chicken breast breaded with kettle corn, succotash, slaw, and a cobbler with goat cheese and frozen custard on top.
Next up was was Chef Cliff Phillips from Feed Co. He served chicken in a parchment packet with julienned vegetables, red potatoes carved into a mushroom shape, and a cheese tuile (crisp), along with a glass of Chardonnay.
Chef Ben Park from Easy Bistro was up next with an amuse-bouche of a chicken liver and goat cheese custard topped with a salad made of pea shoots (I think?) and grapes, then a colorful bowl of chicken, tomatoes, corn, blackberries, and lettuce.
Defending champ Chef Patrick Halloran of Hummingbird Pastaria served up a lasagna with homemade whole wheat pasta sheets, béchamel, a chicken thigh/liver sausage, and goat cheese, with a summer salad on the side.
Finally, Chef Philippe Gehin of Mountain Cove Grille served up a chicken breast stuffed with a sweet and spicy sausage, with confit of chicken livers and thighs.
In the end, I ended up with two ties on my ballot (I’ll never tell!!!!) and had to choose a favorite to circle. Chef Ben Parks from Easy Bistro took the trophy and he seemed pretty excited about it!
In the end, I had a great time judging the Five Star Food Fight! I’m holding out for the Cast Iron Cook Off, since you guys KNOW I’m obsessed with my Lodge…