Whole Foods Market at Phillips Crossing (8003 Turkey Lake Road) hosted the first of three celebrity chef cook-offs. In this high stakes battle, renowned local chef John Rivers of 4 Rivers Smokehouse competed against Alec Cheak of Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. Each chef was given $20 and 20 minutes to speed shop for ingredients. They then had 20 minutes to make a delicious, creative summer meal using only a grill. They stood side by side with their shopping carts as the announcer counted down to the start. As the chefs wandered the aisles, I remained behind sketching the grilling area. Oriane Lluch who helped organize the event, gave me a press release. A Sentinel reporter video taped the competition.
Both chefs spent $19 and change on their ingredients. John Rivers hit an unexpected snag when he realized that the calamari steaks he had purchased were frozen. They were sent back and fresh steaks were ordered. Then John discovered that his grill wasn't working. Unfazed, he ran to a grill in the far corner of the kitchen to grill his fresh vegetables. I began to wonder if the competition was rigged. Whole, fresh, local and seasonal ingredients were used by both chefs. Alec grilled a Pacific Cod over a bed of grilled spring leaks, jicama and mango, accompanied with a balsamic orange, blackberry reduction. John prepared a grilled calamari steak with cilantro along with grilled red and yellow peppers and fresh carrots, topped with a ginger BBQ sauce.
Three judges tasted the light summer dishes deliberating with each taste. The announcer stirred the crowd raising the excitement. After some deliberation, chef Alec Cheak was declared the winner. He smiled broadly. On August 16th Chef Tuan Tran of Crave will face off against Chef Steve Saelg of the Crooked Spoon. The winner of that cook-off will then face off against chef Alec Cheak in the final cook-off on August 30th. The cook-offs all happen at Whole Foods at 6:30pm. I realized as I was leaving that I was hungry. I went home and popped a frozen diner in the microwave.