Part 2 of 3: “The Competition Begins” – Lisa Matusiak of The Bacchus Inn Bed & Breakfast agreed to compete in the locally adapted “Chopped” cooking competition that took place on Thursday, September 15. The event was one of many Cape May Food & Wine Festival events taking place in Cape May from September 15-25, 2011.
The competition challenged 6 participants to create a brunch dish using all the food items from the “mystery basket”. The items in the basket were not revealed until the competition began. Each participant had use of an electric frying pan, a limited pantry of cooking staples, and the items they brought, which included their knives, utensils, and bowls. The competitors were given 30 minutes to prep, cook, and plate 3 portions of the same dish for the judges to taste. The six competitors were Cape May innkeepers who are amateur chefs with no formal culinary training. The 3 judges for the event were David Craig of Lucky Bones, Chris Huber of Black Duck and Godmothers, and Jamie Kelly of Island Grill.
At approximately 4:00pm, the commentator of the event, Jan Pask of CMHA, welcomed all the participants, judges, and the members of the audience. After all the introductions were made, Jan directed the participants to turn the electric frying pans on and to open the “mystery basket” in front of them to reveal the items they were required to utilize in their brunch dish.
Lisa looked at each item carefully. First, she saw a small loaf of Italian bread, half dozen eggs, and a half quart of half-n-half and thought, “OK, there is a lot that can be done with these 3 items.” Then she saw the strawberries and chocolate chips and quickly decided that the dish was probably going to be something sweet. She then saw the bag of hard pretzels and thought to herself, “What in the world am I going to do with pretzels?!”
As the participants were still absorbing the items in the basket, Jan announced the 7th “surprise” item that was required to be used, a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream! For a short moment Lisa considered drinking the shot, but then reconsidered and turned her attention back to the items in the basket and to what her next move was going to be.
Lisa decided that this was going to develop into a French toast dish. So, while pondering the question of what to do with the strawberries, chocolate chips, pretzels, and the Bailey’s, she cut the bread into 3 thick slices. She then cracked 3 eggs into a large mixing bowl and added about a cup of half-n-half. As she added some salt and sugar, the idea of stuffing the bread with the strawberries started to sound good. So she put the egg mixture aside and cut up the strawberries. When she added the strawberries to the pan with some butter she concluded that the pretzels and chocolate chips would somehow get added in after cooking the French toast.
Lisa took a knife and cut slits horizontally into each piece of bread and stuffed the cooked strawberries into the slits in each of the pieces of bread. She put the 3 pieces of stuffed bread into the egg mixture and allowed them to soak for a couple of minutes. This is when it occurred to Lisa that she could melt the chocolate chips to make a sauce, but what to do with those pesky pretzels?
She added more butter to the frying pan and placed the egg-soaked bread in the pan to brown. Then Lisa poured the chocolate chips into a small metal mixing bowl with a little half-n-half. She placed the metal mixing bowl in the corner of the electric frying pan next to the slices of French toast, hoping the chocolate would melt enough to make a sauce.
The commentator, Jan, calls out that the competition is 15 minutes in and that there is 15 minutes to go.
While the toast was browning and the chocolate was melting, Lisa took the bag of hard pretzels and placed it on the table. She then picked-up her wooden cutting board and used all of her strength the crush the pretzels into the smallest pieces she could get, while thinking to herself that a food processor would make this so much easier!
At this point, Lisa flipped the French toast and stirred the now melted chocolate chips. This seemed to be a good time to add the Bailey’s shot to the melted chocolate.
After a couple more minutes, Lisa took the French toast off the frying pan and placed one on each of the three plates sitting in font of her cooking station. Then she took the chocolate off, too, thinking that she would return it to the heat right before serving to warm it up again. Now the frying pan was available to make a topping using the crushed pretzels, butter, and some “raw” sugar that was available from the pantry.
Jan calls out “5 minutes to go”.
Lisa spooned some of the topping onto each of the pieces of French toast. Lisa took the bowl with the chocolate sauce and placed it back on the heat and stirred it with a whisk. Jan announces, “2 minutes to go”. Lisa took the whisk and drizzled the chocolate sauce over each piece of French toast. Done!
Then Jan calls out, “5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … competitors stop cooking!”
Jan then invited each participant to take their brunch dish up to the judges. When it was Lisa’s turn, Jan asked her to tell the judges and audience what she had made. Lisa said, “Today I made Strawberry-Stuffed French Toast with a Crunchy-Pretzel Topping and Chocolate-Bailey’s Sauce”. She watched as the judges each tasted her dish and wrote down their evaluation of her dish on the score card. When all 6 of the participants’ dishes had been tasted, Jan asked the judges to tally their scores and determine the winner.
As the judges came to a consensus, Jan gave each of the competitors a certificate for participating in this event. Then Jan asked the judges if they had made a decision, they indicated that they had.
The winner of Cape May Chopped is … Lisa!
Coming Soon – Part 3 of 3 “Celebrating the Victory”.