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Celebrity Chefs Clinch Championship at 2010 PA Farm Show

Harrisburg – Celebrity chefs sliced and diced, seared and brazed, and laughed often while competing in the PA Iron Chef Challenge Saturday, Jan. 9, at the 2010 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

The rap of knives and tenderizers on cutting boards was punctuated with laughs and visual gags often dealing with the culinary inexperience of some amateur chefs.

Chefs Michael Geary and David Stoltzfus partnered with Matt Belanger of WGAL and Rod Cowan from CBS 21. Chefs James Batterson and Mark Polawski paired with Valerie Pritchett from ABC 27 and Keely Childers of Susquehanna Style magazine. All local celebrities are veterans of last year’s contest.

Both teams were given a required set of ingredients, most of which were PA Preferred products, including bacon, bison, and baby bok choy, trout, tofu, and taro root, with maitake mushrooms, Castle Creek Farm honey, Farmstead Fresh goat cheese, and Boyd and Blair vodka.

Teams had 45 minutes to prepare two dishes, and new this year, the teams had to include two different wines for the meal. Guest judge Jennifer Eckinger, executive director of the Pennsylvania Winery Association, commented before tasting the foods, “Not only am I anxious to see the varied items and how they combine, but to see which wines they’ll pair with the foods.”

Other judges included Nancy and Newman from BOB-Radio, and Michael Finch, HACC Olewine Center for the Culinary Arts certified executive chef and manager of student operations at Bricco in Harrisburg.

Finch, looked forward to sampling the dishes, saying “These chefs are all winners. They are excellent, proven chefs.” As for deciding which team would win, he added, “I’m looking for little things to separate the teams, and for the use of the interesting ingredient taro root.

“The presentation of food is very important,” Finch explained while the chefs were putting their final touches to the foods.  “It stimulates the appetite and sense of smell.”

The judges deliberated and agreed on the team of Batterson, Polawski, Pritchett and Childers for winning the contest.

“The core ingredients in this contest make it fun,” said Finch.  “The flavor pairings were great, especially considering the ingredients used and the time allotted.”

He added the winning team’s presentation was more balanced, which led the team to victory and a year’s worth of bragging rights.

For more information on the PA Preferred program or the Culinary Connection, visit

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the nation, featuring nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 285 commercial exhibitors. The show runs Jan. 9-16 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg. Admission is free and parking is $10. Visit for details.


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