I had a fantastic day on Saturday, as I got to be a judge at the Viking Steel Chef Competition, part of the Park City Food & Wine Classic.
In a head-to-head competition, Chefs Zane Holmquist (Stein Eriksen Lodge) and Michael DeMaria (6 Spoons on Main - coming early 2008 to the Imperial Hotel) were given 4 secret ingredients, which they had to use at least once in each of their dishes.
The secret ingredients were: bison steak, watermelon radishes, goat milk and yellow beans, and both chefs made the most of them.
Chef Zane took the competition a little more to heart, bringing only a few vegetables (potatoes, mushrooms & tomatoes) and a host of vinegars, oils, herbs and spices. This meant that his dishes were a little simpler, and so to compensate, most of them were "deconstructed," where each ingredient held its own place on the plate, so you could taste them individually. This was especially evident in the diesh of warm potato salad with fava beans, mushrooms and black salt (cool!). After about the third dish, I was ready for a "normal" presentation, and I started to mark him down in that category.
Chef Michael on the other hand, brought a lot of other ingredients - Chilean sea bass, veal cheeks, beef tenderloin wrapped in pancetta. While this was within the rules, I thought he made it too safe for himself - he didn't really have to be creative to come up with a dish - he just whipped up one of his favorite recipes, and added a dash of goat's milk to it, or put it on a bed of yellow beans. The dishes were great, and I can't wait to try them in his restaurant, but it just didn't seem like a fair fight.
In the end, Chef Zane defended his title from last year, but the real winner was my stomach...I really hope they'll invite me back again next year.