LEWISTON — Established chefs and young culinary students mingled and showed off their kitchen acumen at the third annual American Culinary Foundation Chef of the Year banquet and awards dinner at the Green Ladle on Monday evening.

Panko-fried avocado with lobster salad and Sriracha aioli anyone? How about fiddleheads sauteed in duck fat and smoked bacon? Or ricotta gnocchi with shrimp, baby spinach and pancetta in garlic butter?

The answer is, “yes, please.” And there was far more than that to tempt any diner.

Master of the Green Ladle kitchen, mentor and ACF Vice President Danny Caron watched his students, mingled with other chefs and, most of all, beamed with pride.

“We’ve got a sold-out crowd, just where we want to be,” Caron said of the 17 chefs cooking for the guests. “We’re doing things a little different this year. We asked the chefs to come in and cook with my students.”

Chefs from Fish Bones, Hurricane’s Cafe & Deli, Mac’s Grill, Rails, Rolly’s Diner, CMMC, Fuel, DaVinci’s Eatery and Sam’s Own Catering came in and cooked alongside the Green Ladle students — all volunteering their time and resources to the dinner.

“That’s why I’m involved in the ACF,” Caron said. “My bottom line is to get these kids involved in the community. You know, get them rubbing elbows with some really great chefs.”

Caron said his students had been in since 7 a.m. and expected to stay until around 10 p.m., and many of the chefs had been there since 9 a.m.

“We’re really lucky,” Caron said. “The culinary community really supports culinary education, the Green Ladle and the ACF, obviously.

“We’re giving out $16,000 worth of scholarships,” Caron said, all supported by events like the golf tournament, the Chili Chowder competition and Chocolat. “Every year, our goal is to increase (scholarship money) by $2,000.”

It wasn’t only students and chefs rubbing elbows. Caron said a young lady came in and was amazed that the owners of DaVinci’s Eatery and Fish Bones were actually friends.

“We’re all friends,” Caron said. “We all work together. They don’t want to be the only restaurant in town.”

Chef-owner of Fish Bones Paul Landry was working the line, serving guests. Speaking of programs like the Green Ladle, Landry said, “If you don’t start them young and cultivate that, they’re not going to be ready when we really need them.”

Landry said the professional chefs are all too happy to show the next generation the ropes — and that when they take their place in the chef community, they will have learned how to give back as well.

As for the local food scene in Lewiston, Landry said, “I think we’ve come a long way,” referring to his days of starting Mac’s Grill, when he said all the people wanted was a meat-and-potatoes kind of restaurant.

Landry said he opened Fish Bones when he saw the need for something more Epicurean in the city. Landry sees the value of the culinary community and gives back, sponsoring the Fish Bones Hospitality Scholarship award.

Landry’s lesson to the next generation seems to have caught on. In 2014, Jessica Hansen was awarded Junior Chef of the Year, as well as settling in as pastry chef at Fuel. Still only 19 years old and on top of her budding career at Fuel, she has since come back to the Green Ladle to help another generation.

At the awards ceremony, it was a good night for Central Maine Community College as Gil Michaud took Chef of the Year and Austin Perreault took Pastry Chef of the Year.

Bronwyn Gray of the Green Ladle won Junior Chef of the Year and Paul Landry won Food Director/Manager of the Year.

It was also a special night for Martine Gagne of Lewiston. As the dining room supervisor at the Green Ladle, Gagne was surprised to win the Hospitality Person of the Year — on her birthday, no less. With a tear in her eye, she accepted her award to a standing ovation for her selfless service to the program.

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Scholarship award winners

American Culinary Federation Maine Chapter 011 Fish Bones Hospitality Scholarship winners, all in the amount of $2,000:

* Megan Cullins, LRTC Culinary Arts/The Green Ladle

* Bronwyn Gray, LRTC Culinary Arts/The Green Ladle

* Taylor Feehan, LRTC Culinary Arts/The Green Ladle

Chef Kevin A. Stetson Scholarship winners, all in the amount of $2,000:

* Sarah Carpenter, Culinary Institute of America, former LRTC Culinary Arts/The Green Ladle student

* Damian Yoder, LRTC Culinary Arts/The Green Ladle

* Taylor Sargent, LRTC Culinary Arts/The Green Ladle

Chef Roger Ouellete Scholarship, all in the amount of $1,500:

* Benjamin Ivy, LRTC Culinary Arts/The Green Ladle

* Elizabeth Matthews, Messalonskee High School

*Cameron Bedard, Culinary Institute of America, former LRTC Culinary Arts/The Green Ladle student

Chef of the Year Banquet award winners

Chef of the Year: Gil Michaud, Central Maine Community College

Pastry Chef of the Year: Austin Perreault, Central Maine Community College

Food Director/Manager of the Year: Paul Landry, Fish Bones American Grill

Hospitality Person of the Year: Martine Gagne, The Green Ladle

Junior Chef of the Year: Bronwyn Gray, LRTC Culinary Arts/The Green Ladle


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