The competition was hot last week at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region Chef Challenge at the Excelsior Springs with presenting sponsor MVP. Guests arrived promptly, not wanting to waste any sampling time, and filled the space happily chatting and mingling as they tasted the offerings in the new this year People’s Choice Cocktail Competition between Brown’s Malt Room and Capital City Gastropub.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest, largest and most effective youth mentoring organization in the United States and has been the leader in one-to-one youth service for more than a century, developing positive relationships that have a direct and lasting impact on the lives of young people. Big Brothers Big Sisters serves children, ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country – including NY’s Capital Region, and their mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported 1-to-1 relationships that change their lives for the better, and guests included many Big Brothers and Big Sisters who are helping change young lives today.
Once inside the ballroom, guests had a chance to sample bites from a number of local restaurants, each competing for the 2014 People’s Choice Award and the chance to compete in the Chef’s Challenge for next year. Competitors lined the walls of the ballroom and guests table hopped, enjoying samples from competitiors including DUO, Cafe Calabria, Carney’s Tavern, Lucas Confectionery, Carmen’s Cafe, Capital City Gastro Pub, Excelsior Springs, and Reel Seafood Co.
Before the judges took their seats, including international blogger, John “Doc” Sconzo and the owner of Crush & Cask in Saratoga, Patricia Novo, an intense bidding war started between Patty Riggi and Gary Dake for the fourth judge’s seat which was the single live auction item of the evening. Patty eventually was the victor, and took her judges seat for the 2014 Chef’s Challenge Competition. In this year’s competition, the 2013 Chef’s Challenge Champion, John Ireland of Saratoga Golf and Polo Club cooked head to head against the 2013 People’s Choice Champion, Joe Mazza of Prime at Saratoga National for the 2014 title using chocolate as the secret ingredient, donated by Hillcrest Foods, Inc. Kevin & Shanna from 99.5 the River Morning Show kept the crowd updated on the dishes, and judges shared their thoughts and favorites as the judges prepared an appetizer, entree and dessert for them to try.
It was a tough and very close competition to judge, but in the end Chef John Ireland pulled out a “three-peat” victory and will go on to compete once again next year in the 2015 Chef’s Challenge where he will compete against the chef from Excelsior Springs, who took home the People’s Choice Award this year, and was joined by the People’s Choice Cocktail Competition winner for 2014 Brown’s Malt Room.
Overall the event was a complete success, exceeding their goal of $35,000 by raising $37,700 all to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region.