Lewiston and Auburn’s culinary stars sharpened their knives, seasoned their pans, and served some of their most popular dishes last Tuesday at the 2nd annual Chef of the Year Gala and Awards Dinner.

The celebration of culinary excellence, honoring those for whom food preparation is an art and a calling, was open to the public, and hungry attendees were treated to a sampling of the best that L-A has to offer.

Chef Dan Caron, president of the Central Maine Chapter of the American Culinary Federation, praised the contributions of local chefs and restaurant owners for their dedication to the community. Those contributions include their work with local fundraising efforts, with area schools to improve food service, and through scholarships and employment of local culinary students.

“They’re always here for us,” said Caron, “and today (at the Chef of the Year event) we are giving away more than $14,000 in scholarships, raised through tournaments, challenges and other fundraisers, to culinary students in college.”

Fish Bones American Grill owner Paul Landry, who presented several scholarships during the evening, suggested that employment in the restaurant industry is essentially a labor of love, requiring chefs and others in the business to work hard during times when others are enjoying themselves — Saturday evenings, holidays and other moments when people are celebrating.

Landry also noted that with “two top-quality culinary schools,” the Lewiston and Auburn area consistently produces committed, professional chefs.

Those two facilities are the Green Ladle culinary arts program at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center and Central Maine Community College’s culinary program.

In addition to plating dishes for various restaurants and food service providers at Tuesday’s event, students from the Green Ladle prepared an earthy and delicately spiced red bliss potato side dish, along with a variety of breads.

Meanwhile, CMCC student chefs Jacqueline Bernier, Jamie Ellsworth and Laura Cutler served their chocolate cake pudding with a cream anglaise. An anglaise, explained Cutler, “is a custard base . . . the cream base of ice cream that can be used as a sauce for decorative purposes and to add a bit of flavor” to the dessert that you are serving.

Pinky D’s owner Randy Smith, whose new-to-L-A modern pink food truck is stylistically reminiscent of days past, was selected as the 2014 “Chef of the Year.” Smith’s pulled pork macaroni and cheese is made with his smoked pulled pork topped with a chipotle-cheddar mac and cheese and a white corn crumb.

The award for Hospitality Person of the Year went to Paul Deschene, kitchen manager at Mac’s Grill in Auburn. Deschene, along with owners Mike Peters and Gerry Gagne, served Mac’s Grill’s smoky Calgary wings at Tuesday’s event.

According to Peters, “Calgary wings are soaked in a wheat beer brine for 24 hours, drained, dried and dry rubbed with a secret seasoning.” Then, the wings are smoked with hickory and apple woods and served with a blended butter and Sriracha hot sauce.

For the evening’s festivities, Fish Bones’ Executive Chef Heidi Parent, along Green Ladle student and Fish Bones intern Megan Cullins, prepared a chipotle-rubbed fish taco, similar to what’s on their luncheon menu. Made with fresh haddock, “the chipotle rub (makes the fish) good and spicy,” said Parent. This dish is served in a gluten-free tortilla laid with a spring mix of greens and a watermelon salsa, alongside a zesty slaw with cilantro and lime.

Jules Patry, owner of DaVinci’s Eatery in Lewiston, along with student chef Taylor Feehan, served a local favorite Tuesday evening. Sausage Milano with locally made sausage, artichoke hearts, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and roasted red peppers, sauteed with butter and white wine and served over a trattole organic pasta, has been a flavorful standard on the menu at DaVinci’s for a long time.

Hilton Garden Inn’s Chef Brad Andries prepared the Hilton’s signature Riverwatch Salad of mixed greens, candied pecans, pickled okra, tomatoes and blue cheese, tossed with a light and flavorful bacon shallot vinaigrette.

The only soup of the evening was provided by Hurricane’s Cafe & Deli of Greene. According to Chef Caron, “Hurricane’s has won many awards for their soups,” and their spicy crab and sweet pea bisque — a soup that is thickened with rice — was a wonderful compliment to the evening’s other offerings.

Voted by attendees to be the evening’s popular favorite, at the Schmengees Bar & Grille table guests were treated to beef tips sauteed in teriyaki and garlic, and served with flavorful caramelized onions.

Host Ramada Inn and Conference Center’s contribution to the event was its popular lobster macaroni and cheese, which, according to Food and Beverage Director David Paine, “is kind of a signature dish”  for the Ramada that offers a successful blend of two local favorites.

Lewiston’s Rolly’s Diner, a breakfast and lunch landmark, provided the second of the evening’s two dessert offerings. Sadie Blais of Rolly’s prepared her signature Sadie crepe. “It’s a chocolate crepe,” explained Blais, “filled with a mocha-flavored mousse and served with a dab of raspberry and a drizzle of chocolate.” This decadent treat has won multiple awards at local chocolate competitions.

Participation, however, was not limited to local eateries. Food service organizations set up displays and were on hand to serve up a taste of their edible wares.

Dennis Paper & Food Service is, according to Steve Wills, “a family-owned business in Bangor.” Wills, along with Zach Hess, both of whom are former chefs, served guests a sake-and-miso marinated beef entree. The beef, said Wills, is a tender “teres major steak cut from the shoulder, marinated, roasted and cooled before chunked and skewered with pea pods and scallions.” Served cold, the skewers are finished with a drizzle of mirin soy glaze.

Jeff Landry, a product specialist with Native Maine Produce and Specialty Foods, provided a colorful classic caprese salad. “We try to source locally,” said Landry, and the backyard beauty tomatoes that he used were grown here in Maine. Layered with fresh mozzarella and basil, then drizzled with a “California olive oil — which has got a nice spice to it” — and a balsamic vinaigrette, the simple, light, beautiful salad symbolized summer.

Standing by with something a little heartier, Performance Food Service Corporate Executive Chef Anthony Bussiere’s sandwich on thick ciabatta bread was prepared with “Braveheart prime rib black angus beef, horseradish cheddar, baby organic greens and a roasted red pepper aioli.”

Also representing was Sysco, which, according to spokesman Fern Langlois, “is the world’s largest food service company, serving Maine and New Hampshire.” At the gala, Sysco, with the assistance of Green Ladle students Abbie Loisel and Tyler Kimball, served a Florentine jumbo round ravioli (made with spinach and ricotta) with a red sauce, and a green pea and sweet onion ravioli with a light Alfredo sauce.

In addition to Chef of the Year and Hospitality Person of the Year awards, honors were given in the following categories:

Junior Chef of the Year: awarded to Jessica Hensen, who, at the age of 19, is a graduate of the Green Ladle and the pastry chef at Fuel restaurant;

Pastry Chef of the Year: awarded to Bri Doyle, who graduated from and now teaches at the Green Ladle;

Food Service Director of the Year: awarded to David Roberts for his work in restaurants, schools and health-care facilities, and as a chef in the U.S. Army.

Sausage Milano

From DaVinci’s in Lewiston

1 pound pasta of your choice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1/2 cup chopped shallots

12 ounces Italian sausage, sliced on the bias

2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, or dried

3 ounces roasted red peppers

4 ounces artichoke hearts, chopped

1 ounces tiny capers

White wine, as needed

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

Directions: Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. While pasta is cooking, add extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic and shallots to saute pan and brown lightly. Add sliced sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers, artichoke hearts and capers. Continue sauteing until vegetables are crisp-tender. Deglaze with white wine. Add butter, season with salt and pepper, and add Romano cheese. Drain pasta, add sausage mixture and toss with pasta. Serves 4.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

From Fusion Restaurant at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston

Serves 1.

Butter for sauteing

4 ounces of knuckle and claw lobster meat

6 ounces cavatappi pasta

9 ounces white cheddar cheese sauce.

Seasoned cracker crumbs

Preheat a saute pan. Add butter and 4 ounces of lobster meat. Saute briefly.

Add 6 ounces of cavatappi pasta and 9 ounces of white cheddar cheese sauce. Simmer briefly.

Transfer from the saute pan to a bowl and top with seasoned cracker crumb topping.

Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees until the crumb topping is lightly browned.

Pulled pork mac and cheese

From Pinky D’s owner Randy Smith

Ingredients:

1 whole Boston butt

Dry rub, consisting of:

1 tablespoon ground cumin

?1 tablespoon garlic powder?

1 tablespoon onion powder

?1 tablespoon chili powder

?1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

?1 tablespoon salt

?1 tablespoon ground pepper

?1 tablespoon paprika

?3/4 cup brown sugar

Mix together the dry rub ingredients and set aside.

Pork shoulder preparation:

Place in baking pan that is bigger than the shoulder by at least an inch in length and width, and is at least 3 inches deep. Rub dry rub onto the surface of the shoulder and massage in such that it adheres to the surface. Coat all sides. Make sure the fat layer on the shoulder is facing up before cooking!

Place shoulder uncovered in a 500-degree oven on the middle rack cook for 15-20 minutes until there is a nice crispy layer all over. Remove pork. Let cool for 5-10 minutes. Turn oven down to 200 degrees, cover pan tightly with plastic film and then cover with foil and return to oven and cook for an additional 5 hours. Shut off the oven and let the roast cool for a couple of hours before removing from the oven. Use fork and fingers to pull into small shredded pieces.

Macaroni and cheese preparation:

1/2 cup butter or margarine, divided

1/2 cup flour

2 cup milk

8 ounces of Velveeta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

4 cups mezze penne pasta, cooked

1 bag plain white corn chips, crushed as small as possible

BBQ sauce

Preparation:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in medium saucepan on medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to boil; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened. Add Velveeta; cook 3 minutes or until melted, stirring frequently. Stir in macaroni.

In a 2-quart casserole sprayed with cooking spray, fill bottom with pulled pork  approximately 1 inch deep. Spoon macaroni and cheese over pork. Sprinkle corn chips over casserole.

Bake 30 minutes or until heated through.

Add a small amount of BBQ sauce on top when served.

Sadie’s award-winning chocolate crepes

From Rolly’s Diner in Auburn

Crepes:

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups chocolate milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

Mix ingredients together and whisk or beat well with hand or electric mixer until smooth and shiny. Put in a covered bowl and refrigerate for an hour.

Heat skillet, frying pan or griddle on medium-high heat. Put 1/2 tablespoon of oil in pan or on griddle and spread around evenly. Pour enough crepe mixture to create a thin layer (about 1/4 cup). Cook until browned on one side, then flip. When both sides are done to your liking, remove to plate on the side.

Filling for the crepes:

2 tablespoons water

1 package gelatin

2 cups milk

1-2 tablespoons instant coffee

1/4 cup sugar

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup cold heavy or whipping cream

Soak package of gelatin in 2 tablespoons of water until moistened. Beat together egg yolks and sugar. Put egg-sugar mixture in a double boiler and begin heating. Scald (cook until just under boiling) 2 cups of milk. When milk is scalded, slowly add to sugar and egg mixture, mixing well. Add gelatin mixture, instant coffee and vanilla and mix until gelatin is dissolved. Refrigerate until mixture has consistency of an unbeaten egg. Whisk the gelatin mixture until fluffy. Whip heavy or whipping cream until stiff and fold into gelatin mixture. Refrigerate until set.

Spoon the Bavarian cream mixture onto crepe or pipe in using a pastry bag. Fold crepe. Top with chocolate glaze or sauce and add raspberry jam, fresh raspberries or any fruit of your choice.


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