By Laura Hunt Little

The Mix 100.5 Annual Crater Lake Chef Challenge wrapped up last week at Pirch on Highway 111 after seven weeks of feats of culinary acrobatics displayed by area Chefs and their extraordinary teams. The final face off took place between semi-finalist winners Chef Adam of Roy’s Rancho Mirage and Chef Joel of Pinzimini at The Westin, Rancho Mirage.  In the final round, each Chef brought their A-game, preparing an entrée dish accompanied by either an appetizer or a dessert.

The contest, sponsored by Crater Lake Vodka, challenged chefs to infuse the taste of various flavored vodkas into their dishes.  Points were awarded for taste, creativity, use of fusion (of the alcohol), technique and appearance.  Each week, a protein was assigned in advance, and, on the spot, a secret ingredient was unveiled for each team to incorporate on the spot.

Both Chefs competed admirably on Wednesday, preparing delectable tastings for a panel of judges that consisted of other area chefs and sponsors of the competition.  By a margin of only one point, Chef Joel edged out Chef Adam to take the title.


Chef Joel prepared elk for the starter as well as the entrée. He chose a starter and entrée. The starter was Seared Carpaccio of Elk in the Meadow with Indian fennel, coriander dusted and smoked juniper yuzu aioli, then finished with Crater Lake Gin mist. The dish was served covered with a glass dome that captured the gin mist. The entrée was Grilled Rack of Elk with Crater Lake Pepper Vodka mole sauce, polenta, crosnes, Brussel sprout leaves, flageolet beans and Rogue River blue cheese. Of special note was Chef Adam’s dessert of flash-frozen berries and nuts with flavored vodka, which was as compelling to watch him prepare with frozen nitrogen as it was delicious to taste.

With such talented culinary teams in the desert, it will certainly be worth your while to visit the winning restaurants. Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion is located on Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage, and Pinzimini is located at The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa on Dinah Shore Drive also in Rancho Mirage,

(Photos By Laura Hunt Little)