Chefs are a competitive lot, but it was all friendly competition at last week’s CCVI Food Fight 4. Three of the city’s best gathered on stage at The Guild, cooking to beat the clock, impress a panel of judges and benefit the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired.
Alex Pope of Local Pig topped the event, closely followed by Howard Hanna of The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange and Michael Smith of Michael Smith and Extra Virgin in what co-chair Dolly Wood called the tightest point-spread in the event’s four-year history.
This year’s twist? Help from a trio of untrained sous chefs. Jerry Fisher, a self-described food enthusiast who’s never worked in a professional kitchen, backed up Pope. Hanna’s second was Tony Glamcevski, an industry pro who’s worked at Le Fou Frog and Green Dirt Farm and is now front-of-house at The Rieger. And Ryan Sciara of Cellar Rat Wine Merchants served as Smith’s sous.
If it added tension to the evening, you couldn’t tell. Each duo focused on the job at hand, chopping, frying and roasting as efficiently as possible in their make-shift kitchens. Their task: to prepare three courses in one hour, using ingredients from a grocery bag that included cod, flank steak, black walnuts, piquillo peppers and the like.
They could plan everything in advance but for one factor: a secret ingredient announced by honorary chef and chairman David Crum at the outset of the evening. His pick? Sweet potatoes grown by Thane Palmberg.
“It’s the only thing grown locally that’s available this time of year,” said Crum, general manager of Arrowhead Specialty Meats and Food Fight veteran (he served as sous chef to the late John McClure of Starker’s in 2011 and for Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda in 2012). “They’ve been cellared since last fall, and they’re so tasty.”