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Havasu’s TOP CHEF 2013: Martini Bay

Food_Prep-(3)The closest equivalent to a food fight broke out Thursday evening, November 7, at the London Bridge Resort Convention Center as Martini Bay just edged out Shugrue’s for Havasu’s Top Chef of 2013. The second annual event, a top fund raiser for the Lake Havasu Hospitality Association, delighted a packed house of foodies that took advantage of fantastic culinary delights that featured the talents of 15 local restaurants.

Two hundred tickets were sold for the event, which helped to raise approximately $10,000 for the association. This year’s event featured a large screen television that allowed everyone a better view of the dishes that were being prepared by the five participating restaurants. The five participating restaurants included The Turtle Grill at the Nautical Beachfront Resort, The Refuge Golf and Country Club featured the cuisine of Chef Dennis Malin, a renowned chef for many years in Maui, Martini Bay, Shugrue’s, and Angelina’s.

Along with fine hors d’ oeuvres being offered to attendees throughout the evening, a number of fine wines and beers were made available, thanks in part to the contributions of Mudshark Brewery and Young’s Market Company, distributors of fine wines and spirits. A silent auction was also conducted with a number of patrons around town offering many fine prizes from local hotel stays with meal packages to golf excursions and Arizona Diamondback game packages.

Competing_DishLike many of the cooking show competitions on television, chefs were not aware of the main ingredients for the menu until they started cooking. This year’s general theme were foods found at sporting events. Everyone had access to a list of flavor enhancing spices and ingredients, but the dishes had to consist of the selected main foods. Judging and grades were given in the following categories: use of ingredients, taste, presentation, and creativity. Four judges, consisting of three professionals from the food industry and one highest-bidder from the audience, made up the judges. The professional judges were: Chef Heinz Laurer, with 40 years of food industry experience in European, Tim Abrams, VP of Food and Beverage at the Aquarius Resort and Casino in Laughlin, and Chef Mike Dahling with Shamrock Foods. Guest judges included Dr. Atassi, Monique Day, and Julie Day, splitting guest judging duties for each of the three competitions. Guest judge donations raised for the Lake Havasu Hospitality Association amounted to $1,425.

In the first round of competition, Chefs were asked to prepare appetizers using shelled peanuts, scallions, cotton candy, and corn dogs. Contestants had to work fast sorting through the ingredients as they were give 20 minutes to prepare and plate their creations. Chef Horacio Torres of Angelina’s Italian Kitchen topped the corn dogs with a creamy mustard sauce. The appetizers were sampled by the judges with the top three dishes moving on to round two, the entrée round. Chef John Andreola, executive Chef at the Turtle Grill at The Nautical, moved on to the second round. Chef Andy Viering and sous chef Daniel Herrell of Martini Bay as well as Shugrue’s Chef Steve McMillan and Ryan Paull also moved to the second round.

The second around was an entrée competition in which chefs were give 30 minutes to create a delectable dish starting with chicken fingers, nacho cheese, candy apples, and min-corn. Two of the three winners were selected and moved on to the final round to determine Havasu’s Top Chef for 2013. Working from recipes that have been perfected in a fully-equipped kitchen is one thing; creating chef-quality creations under time constraints using an eclectic mix of foods in a make-shift kitchen and turning it into a culinary masterpiece is another story. In the end, it was Shugrue’s Chefs’ Steve McMillan and Ryan Paul and Martini Bay’s Andy Viering and Daniel Herrell that advanced to the final round.

Top_Chef-Winner-(1)Anticipation was running high as the final ingredients of jumbo shrimp, pepperoni, blood oranges, and corn flakes were announced for the final entrée round. The Chefs’ were busy chopping, dicing, and prepping ingredients while sauté pans were preparing shrimp for the final presentation of the evening. In the end, it was Chef Andy Viering’s Asian influence that brought home the trophy for Martini Bay. Their winning dish consisted of jumbo shrimp stuffed with pepperoni and corn flakes severs with blood orange and a side of whipped cinnamon sweet potato.

Attendees were also given the opportunity to vote on the People’s Choice Award for best appetizer with Angelina’s Voodoo shrimp taking that honor. After the competition, chefs’ congratulate one another as people milled around satisfied by an evening filled with fine food, wine, and beer, topped off by the opportunity to see the best chefs’ in Havasu in completion.

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