HARRISBURG – Chef Michael Collier, executive chef at the Hershey Country Club in Hershey, Pa., dished up the winning entrée and appetizer to take home the title of PA Preferred Best Chef of Pennsylvania. The third annual competition was held on Thursday, Jan. 15, at the 2009 Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Before cooking his way to the top, Chef Collier surpassed Chef David Ansill, the executive chef and owner of Ansill Food + Wine in Philadelphia. He then competed against reigning best chef, Drew Wandishin, chef at the Top of the 80’s in Hazleton, Pa. in the final round.
In each round, chefs were given only 30 minutes to convert raw, locally grown ingredients into an entrée and appetizer. Collier and Wandishin went head-to-head “Iron Chef” style to whip up a creation that tempted the judges’ taste buds.
The chefs knocked out of competition in earlier rounds included Bill Sell, executive chef at the Altoona Hotel: An American Bistro in Altoona, Pa., and Shaun Alcorn, owner and executive chef of Bella Cucina in Franklin, Pa., and The Porter’s House in Titusville, Pa.
All of the restaurants represented in the contest serve meals prepared with PA Preferred products.
In addition to their time constraints, the chefs were required to use all 10 secret ingredients. The ingredients included items mostly Pennsylvania grown foods such as dried blueberries, rainbow trout, fennel, and chicken. Each round offered slightly more difficult ingredients to really test the chefs’ skills.
The last few seconds ticked down as the chefs frantically added the final touches to their works of art. The sensational dishes were presented to a panel of three culinary instructor judges, which included Michael Finch, from Harrisburg Area Community College and Bricco in Harrisburg; Susan Roth of Northampton Community College; and Raymond Wesolowskin from La Cordon Bleu. A special guest judge, Keely Childers, of Susquehanna Style Magazine, joined the panel for the final round.
“It’s always amazing to see what two different chefs will do with the same set of ingredients,” said Chef Finch. “This was a close competition that came down to presentation and texture.”
The judges scored individually, analyzing taste, presentation, ingredient usage and creativity. The chefs also lost a half a point for each minute over their 30-minute allotment.
Chef Collier served his chicken over pappardelle pasta with edamame and mushrooms and roasted carrots. He marinated and grilled the trout then served them over poached blueberries.
After the scores were tallied, the pair of dishes created by Collier was the $1,000 winning spread in the winner-take-all contest.
The competition was sponsored by Sysco Foods, Bosch Thermador, Anolon and the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association.
The PA Preferred logo identifies food and goods produced in Pennsylvania, and restaurants that use Pennsylvania foods in their menus. For more information on the program, visit www.papreferred.com
For photos of the whole competition, click here.