With the competition nearing a close, the Crater Lake Chef Challenge is heating up and the chefs are managing to create the most impressive dishes in limited time.  Now that we are wrapping up the semi-finals and preparing for the finals, judges are expecting the talent to only improve as these chefs have shown amazing capabilities.  As a regular judge in this event, I have seen some mediocre dishes presented and I have seen some that should be in a five star restaurant in New York City or San Francisco!  Each week I wonder how they could possibly get any better and each week I am amazed and humbled by their creations.

The semi-final round last week included four chefs.  Chef Santucci of Capri Restaurant battled Chef Smith of 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro while Chef Souza of Circa 59 was paired with Chef Delmond of Westin Mission Hills Resort.  In the first round, Capri Restaurant presented a lamb “lollipop” on a bed of cous cous, followed by a surf and turf combination of filet mignon and lobster tail.  These dishes were executed perfectly, full of flavor and impressive technique.  3rd Corner prepared a fresh interpretation of fish and chips.  A tower of lightly battered and fried fish, paired with fresh cut and seasoned potatoes was served with smashed English peas.  The two chefs were certain to implement the Crater Lake brand into each culinary creation but there would only be one winner moving on to the finals.  After a lengthy deliberation, Chef Anthony Santucci would win this round.

In the following competition, Chef Souza of Circa 59 in the Riviera Hotel would prepare a beautiful dish of scallops three ways.  First, a scallop brulee with Crater Lake Gin, brown butter and caviar, beside a bacon-wrapped scallop with chanterelle mushrooms and topped with an espresso hazelnut glaze, and finally, a fried scallop taco with a cucumber slaw and avocado yogurt.  Wow, this dish was as beautiful as it was delicious!  Chef Delmond would present a veal filet with sea urchin butter, gnocchi and Tuscan kale all served on a marina di chiogga squash puree.  This dish was artistic and colorful but would it be enough to pass to the finals?  As it turns out, it was a close call and Circa 59’s chef, Souza would win this round.

These chefs have brought their best and the competition is getting harder and harder to judge.  The final round remains, where five chefs will compete for victory and bragging rights.  Wednesday, October 24th, will be the final competition so come support your favorite chef at Fixtures Living in Rancho Mirage across from The River.  With great food available and tasting provided by Crater Lake Vodka, there is no better place to be.  We’ll see you there!


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