September 13, 2012
Chefs compete to create the best Flavors of the Northwest
By Lailani Upham
Local judges Jennifer Brown, Kicking Horse Culinary Arts instructor and Heather Knutson, Polson Chamber of Commerce President listen on to celebrity New York City chef Joey Campanaro’s critique on a dish the team taste tested. (Lailani Upham photo)
POLSON — Four top-notch restaurants from Whitefish to Missoula participated in the first annual “Flavors of the Northwest Cooking Competition” at the KwaTaNuk Resort and Casino last Friday.
The Café Kandahar from the Whitefish Mountain Resort, Blue Canyon of Missoula, Nickle Charlie’s of Missoula and Polson’s own Ricciardi’s Italian Restaurant vied for top plate.
Chef Ben Jones with Blue Canyon from Missoula peppers up some thick chunks of meat for the entrée portion of the competition. Blue Canyon won the cook-off by seven points. (Lailani Upham photo)
The “Flavors of the Northwest” featured a four 3-person team who competed head-to-head in three courses; appetizers, entree, and dessert.
The winner was Blue Canyon and runner-up Ricciardi’s.
Each team of chef’s had a chance to score a total of 450 points, which each dish counted for 150 points.
The points were based on presentation, creativity, and originality.
A bit on the rare side – a mouth-watering steak mountain is brought through the audience prior to reaching the judges. (Lailani Upham photo)
The trick to contest was to integrate the “secret ingredient” – the Flathead cherry. From appetizer, to entrée, to dessert – the Flathead cherry had to be clearly defined as a “flavor.”
Celebrity chef Joey Campanaro, owner of “The Little Owl” in New York City and a feature chef on the Food Network’s Iron Chef, the Martha Stewart Show, and the Today Show was the head judge along with local ladies Jennifer Brown and Heather Knutson.
A salmon appetizer designed and cultivated by local restaurant Ricciardi’s crew. (Lailani Upham photo)
The Flavors of the Northwest event was a fun night for local folks to check out local restaurant cuisine spreads and how their ingredients are created and prepared into a decadent course.
Smiles, laughs, and watering-mouths were a common denominator of many of the guests as dishes were passed around. KwaTaqNuk’s Nook Restaurant kept the audience filled with tummy satisfaction with an array of flavorsome appetizers.
An upside-down huckleberry cake created by Nickle Charlies of Missoula. (Lailani Upham photo)
Winners received a dinner cruise on the Shadow for 2013 and a one-night stay at the KwaTaqNuk and a bottle of KwaTaqNuk’s Signature wine, a logo-cooler and $600.
Runner-up winners took home all the above – minus the cooler and $600.
Nickle Charlie’s Chef Mike Slabough said, he found out they were a couple points off of winning due to the lack of taste of cherries in the ice cream.
He said he couldn’t wait to do it again. “It was a blast and I am looking forward to next year,” Slabough said.