Chef competition uses food bank ingredients
AVON — Clad in a starched white chef’s jacket — a cook’s couture of choice — Paul Jagielski is ready to do battle.
In his arsenal is a lethal supply of fresh peppers, andouille sausage, jumbo shrimp and grits.
The combination won’t kill — but the seasoned chef is hopeful the dish will knock out his competition.
“It’s shrimp and grits, baby, and it gets no better than this,” he said Thursday after quickly whipping up the entree at his restaurant, Henry’s at the Barn in Olde Avon Village. “The crowd is going to go wild. It’s definitely a dish from the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) philosophy. I like to keep it simple.”
That’s good, because Jagielski and other area chefs are going head-to-head Sunday at the second annual Generous Helpings fundraiser to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio.
But the “Iron Chef”-like competition, modeled on the classic Food Network program that pits chef against chef, comes with a little twist. There will be no black truffles, caviar, foie gras or frog legs to captivate the palate.
Instead, each chef has to incorporate one of the food bank’s “Super 6” into a dish.
Culinary greatness is going to start from rather humble beginnings: The “Super 6” are canned vegetables, peanut butter, tuna, cereal, beef stew or soup. The items are the most-requested but least-frequently received items to come in during a food drive, said Julie Chase-Morefield, Second Harvest’s executive director.
“They are more the center-of-the-plate items. Things you definitely need to eat to stay healthy,” Chase-Morefield said. “When volunteers want to organize food drives, those are the things we are going after.”
The end result from these run-of-the-mill dietary staples can astonish, said two competitors, Jonny Black and Lara Brown, chefs and co-culinary directors from the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan.
“We’re not from Ohio. We were born in California and lived in New York. So we like to take a step on the wild side,” Brown said. “Who else would think to turn canned corn and corn pops cereal into homemade ice cream and cones? We’re talking corn on top of corn on top of corn.”
Brown, the pastry chef at the institute, is quick to make her voice heard in this friendly competition. The team of Black and Brown may be joining for the first time, but they enter on the heels of last year’s win by another CVI chef.
“Flavorwise, the other chefs are at our level, but the techniques and presentation we use are a cut above the rest,” Brown said.
But they won’t run away with the coveted crowd favorite award easily.
Jonathon Lange, a sous chef from the Cleveland Marriott and a Lorain native, is jumping into the fire with fire-roasted corn chowder and pan-seared crabcakes.
And not to be left out, Jagielski said his dish is delicious, unique and affordable.
Take his shrimp and grits entrée. Its base is good old-fashion grits — the same stuff grandmothers have boiled up in batches for ages. But with a little planning and about $4 extra dollars per person, Jagielski can whip up a bowl with enough southern soul that’ll have you standing in line for seconds.
“I didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s my spin on a traditional favorite,” Jagielski said. “It’s definitely something you have to taste to believe.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.