Wegmans had the finale to their first annual Wegmans Chef ‘Throwdown’ on Saturday with the final chef competition happening at their Sheridan Drive store. The first round of competition was on June 27 and featured chefs from their top 4 area stores; Alberta Drive, Amherst Street, McKinley and Sheridan Drive, competing against one another with in-store competitions which challenged them to incorporate as much local food as possible into the dishes they composed along with featuring a secret ingredient, also produced locally.
The 4 winners met this past Saturday for the final cook-off to see who was top chef. With a large audience on hand, Sheridan Drive store’s produce department was transformed into a professional cooking arena equipped with four state-of-the-art cooking stations all flanked by overflowing bins of fresh, locally grown produce. There was also a large flat-screen which provided the audience with close-up views of the chefs in action.
The event promptly began at noon with the ‘secret ingredient’ being unveiled by emcees, Nicholas Picholas from KISS 98.5 and Wegman’s Chef Fred Torrell. Locally grown green & yellow summer squash was revealed and the chefs were off…..
Over the course of the next hour, Chef Alice from the McKinley store, Chef Melissa from the Alberta Drive store, Chef Jason from Amherst Street and Chef Mike from Sheridan Drive chopped, sauteed, boiled, carved, mixed, blended and grilled their ingredients hoping to create the winning dish. During this time, the emcees gave play by play accounts of what was happening with the chefs along with taking questions from the enthralled audience. As each chef was equipped with a micorphone, they were able to answer questions, explain technique and even provide background as to their training and experience.
The lucky tasting judges were Wegmans’ Buffalo Division Executive Chef Don Woods, Henry Agle, farmer and member of the Eden Valley Growers who also provided much of the local produce being used, Sam representing the general consumer and yours truly. Our task, albeit not an easy one, was to judge each dish on three criterion; plating/presentation, flavor and how well each chef incorporated the ‘secret ingredient’ and local ingredients into each dish. Needless to say, it was a close contest as each chef prepared delicious, flavorful dishes filled freshness and creativity. And the breadth of local ingredients used was quite impressive – everything from local beef (from a farm in Sanborn), local cheese (Yancey’s Fancy and others), local fruits and vegetables as well as some local spices and sweeteners (NYS maple syrup!)
While they were all certainly winners in each category, alas this is a competition and with that, there had to be a winner…….
Congratulations Chef Mike!!! Chef Don Woods, the event organizer, assured me this would be an annual event at Wegmans in Buffalo as they look to new, innovative ways to showcase our local bounty. We had a great time and look forward to next year’s competition!
posted by L. Tucker