Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fill the Grill Challenge

Cheftestants Ricky Ly, of the Tasty Chops blog and Kendra Lott, of Edible Orlando Magazine, faced off in the third annual "Fill the Grill Challenge". The competition took place at Whole Foods at Phillips Crossing (8003 Turkey Lake Road Orlando FL). Ricky Ly has just published a book called "Food Lovers Guide to Orlando". Ricky and I had been on a Daily City panel discussion about blogging in Orlando so he recognized me and gave me a warm handshake. His next door neighbors were also there to root for him. They ate pizza straight out of the box they had just ordered as they watched. It smelled so good!

The Cheftestants were given $20 and had 20 minutes to speed shop the store for their ingredients.  Two shopping carts awaited the contestants but one was swiped by an intrepid shopper. When a second cart was once again found, the competition began. An announcer on the stores loud speakers tracked the contestants progress down the isles. At the check out, Ricky Lee was over budget and he had to return some items and Kendra experienced the same problem. She did save 10 cents by reusing her own shopping bag. This is a Whole Foods policy and she cashed in.

When they returned, they were given a few minuted to prepare their work areas. They then had 20 minutes to prepare a dish to impress the judges, Brandon Moss, Chef Lenning and Chef Bruno who won last year's challenge. Dishes were judged based on presentation and of course taste.

Ricky was preparing a surf and turf. He said, "My dish was a spice rubbed flank steak with lemon butter seared sea scallop, purple potato, and  a whole ear of corn. My Biggest challenge was time from prepping and grilling and getting everything together in 20 minutes." He spent a sizable amount of time back at the spice table marinating the meat. "The rub I had used had garlic powder, dill weed, a touch of cumin, chili powder, coriander, and salt. The last minute countdown was nerve wrecking " he said. When the 20 minutes were up, he had to serve the grilled steak rather rare.

Kendra told me about her 20 minute creation,  "I did Key West shrimp with lemon and black pepper, and a paella-style rice with grilled heirloom tomato and Vidalia onion. I had planned to stuff the rice into a hollowed out avocado along with some chunks of avocado, but I ran out of time and had to just use a few avocado slices as garnish."

The judges spent a good deal of time tasting the dishes. The savory smell made my stomach rumble. The MC finally was given the tallied results. She announced, "And the winner is....." She paused. I shouted out, "Commercial break!" Sure enough, she began discussing discounts available in the store. The contestants groaned and waited. "The Winner is Kendra Lott!"

Mark your calendar! The next Fill the Grill Challenge is tomorrow August 15th starting at 6:30pm again at Whole Foods (8003 Turkey Lake Road Orlando FL). Nicole Aidelbaum of WHERE Orlando will face off against Christine Pittman of Cook the Story. The winner of that round will then face off against Kendra Lott for this year's championship title.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

2 comments: Orlando Food Blog said...

Thanks so much Thor for coming out and posting about this wonderful event - truly amazing work and capturing the spirit of the moment perfectly! So fun!

karen said...

This looks like it was really fun and a great test for non-professional chefs. Super motivation to see what one can pull off in such a short time.