UPDATE: TAPAteria team wins CRA chef's competition

Posted by Matthew Schniper on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 at 6:15 PM

As promised, here's a brief slideshow to share some food shots from other teams, as well as some pics of food vendors and local restaurateurs who participated in the annual event.

Bryce Crawford took the people pictures; I took the food shots.

You'll see the friendly folks behind Rasta Pasta, McCabe's Tavern and The Airplane Restaurant; a few competing chefs; and two dishes from each round of the competition, featuring the frogs legs, shrimp and tofu challenge ingredients.

Because I was busy cooking and each team only made enough plates for the judges and the demo table, I unfortunately don't know exactly what each of these plates consists of, nor what they tasted like.

Nonetheless, enjoy.

——- ORIGINAL POST, 5:54 P.M., MONDAY, MARCH 7 ——-

As I warned you last Friday, both the CRA Pikes Peak Chapter Hospitality Expo and Colorado Springs Chorale's Chef's Gala took place on Sunday.

The best personal news I have to share between the events is this: The team with which I was paired — Aaron Retka and Hilary McCandless Beard from TAPAteria — took home the trophy for Best Overall Champion de Cuisine.

Hilary McCandless Beard and Aaron Retka — soon to be immortalized on the CRAs Champion de Cuisine trophy.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Hilary McCandless Beard and Aaron Retka — soon to be immortalized on the CRA's Champion de Cuisine trophy.

Our team's win follows last year's victory by Garden of the Gods Gourmet's Amy Pontius and Larissa Warner.

Watch out ... this trophy is heavy and that knife will take your eye out.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Watch out ... this trophy is heavy and that knife will take your eye out.

Of the eight competing teams, the crews from Garden of the Gods Gourmet (Pontius and Warner plus FOX 21's Kimberly Price as the media guest) took the prize for the appetizer category; Front Range Barbeque (Bill Frantz, Jesse Galvan and FOX 21's Abbie Burke) landed the medal for best entrée; and Jake & Telly's Greek Taverna (Ruth Henson, Ott Mathias and 103.9 RXP's Coba) nabbed the award for best dessert.

The secret, challenge ingredients for each course, in order, were: frogs legs, shrimp and tofu.

For the frog legs, we sauteed them in butter and olive oil with smoked and Hungarian paprika, salt and pepper. Then we pulled the meat and placed it over saffron-infused potatoes. We then made a piccata garnish (basically a parsley-based pesto with almonds instead of pinenuts).
  • Matthew Schniper
  • For the frog legs, we sauteed them in butter and olive oil with smoked and Hungarian paprika, salt and pepper. Then we pulled the meat and placed it over saffron-infused potatoes. We then made a piccata garnish (basically a parsley-based pesto with almonds instead of pinenuts).

With the shrimp, we made a mixed green salad base with jicama slices, candied kumquat, cilantro and iberico ham slivers. We then cooked the shrimp in a ginger citrus demi-glace made with garlic, ginger, lime, cayenne, shallots, white pepper and salt.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • With the shrimp, we made a mixed green salad base with jicama slices, candied kumquat, cilantro and iberico ham slivers. We then cooked the shrimp in a ginger citrus demi-glace made with garlic, ginger, lime, cayenne, shallots, white pepper and salt.

With the tofu, we pressed it through a fine-mesh strainer with goat cheese and whipped it with cream and sugar into a mousse. In a parfait glass, we layered that with raspberries and a sabayon sauce (egg yolk and sugar) and crushed almonds. For garnish, we added a strip of candied Iberico ham (made by cooking it in a simple syrup with nutmeg and a pinch of cayenne.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • With the tofu, we pressed it through a fine-mesh strainer with goat cheese and whipped it with cream and sugar into a mousse. In a parfait glass, we layered that with raspberries and a sabayon sauce (egg yolk and sugar) and crushed almonds. For garnish, we added a strip of candied Iberico ham (made by cooking it in a simple syrup with nutmeg and a pinch of cayenne.

To be clear, the vast majority of the credit for our team's win goes to Aaron and Hilary — the creative muscle. I played a 5 to 10 percent creative role at best, suggesting a couple ingredient additions and techniques.

I did however pull some labor weight, running for ingredients and working alongside my culinary peers. I can tell you that it is no fun to push a firm block of tofu through a fine-mesh strainer for 20 minutes straight in order to achieve a mousse texture, for instance.

I want to thank my teammates for letting me play along and the CRA organizers for once again inviting me to participate. My humble respect for all the other teams who made it a hell of a competition, as usual.

I'll aim to update this posting with some more photos from the event a little later down the road.

And I'll unpack the Chef's gala tomorrow. For now, I will tell you that chef Greg Barnhill and the Charles Court at the Broadmoor crew simply slayed it. They took home first place in the entrée category as well as Best of Show, with the People's Choice award going to the El Paso Club and chef Dion Samsel and his crew.

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