Fardowners Restaurant claimed the 2014 Crozet Culinary Competition trophy cup Oct. 18 at The Lodge at Old Trail, to become the event’s first repeat winner.
Lodge chef Jesse Kaylor unveiled the mystery local ingredients: trout, apples, squash, Caromont Farm goat cheese and Gearharts dark chocolate. An entrée and dessert are required. Competitors had an hour to be ready. They hardly noticed the studious audience, seated to keep views open.
Fardowners faced off against Da Luca Bistro and Bar, Sal’s Restaurant and Southern Way Café for town bragging rights. Event emcee David Hilliard called attention to the fact the chefs had left their restaurants, even closed them, to participate and contribute to a community cause. Ten local wineries and two local breweries also donated.
Newsplex 19 weatherman Travis Koshko stepped up to be celebrity judge, and this year the three remaining judges table seats were drawn from a lottery of ticketholders on hand. Frank Cerrone, Jeri Evans and Valerie Long were holding the winning tickets and happily sat down to await the taste buffet. Meanwhile, a silent auction went on and spectators socialized and filled up on barbeque sliders and other small bites prepared by The Lodge.
Similarly new, this year competing chefs made an additional meal and four lottery ticket holders heard their numbers called out to eat it. They took seats at a table not far from the judges. Winners were Helen Hilliard, Carmen Fischer, Jim Schweitzer and Cole Fischer. Their summations of their meals were “amazing,” “really good,” “I’d eat this as my last meal” and being unable to speak.
The challenge’s charitable cause this year was Claudius Crozet Park.
Drew Holzwarth announced the park’s $170,000 building fund campaign. The declared aim is to replace the collapsed pavilion, flattened in the 2012 derecho, and to build an amphitheater for performances by the pond.
Already the campaign has had success. A Crozet family that remains anonymous gave $45,000 to fund restoration of the lost pavilion and to replace the roof on the neighbor pavilion Holzwarth said. “We have put it to work.” The target was to be done before the fall Arts and Crafts Festival.
“Let’s bring music back to the park,” said Holzwarth next. “We’re going to build an amphitheater and bring back music.” He had an illustration of a platform, appearing to extend to the water’s edge, with a roof pitched high in front. Seating was on arcs of terraces.
Holzwarth appealed for volunteer manpower for the park and asked for community members to serve on the park board. “And, we’ll put your money to good use.”
Judges labored over their evaluation duty. The savory tasting came at a cost of responsibility. They kept all four plates in front of them to be able to refresh comparisons.
Drawn into a hushed clutch, organizers tallied the scoresheets.
Another innovation, this year the runners-up chefs were presented crystal beer glasses with the competition commemorated in engraving. The challenge announces only a winner.
For Fardowners the victory announcement was a moment of jubilation. Cruising in a spirit of camaraderie, all the chefs joined for a group photo with the judges a few minutes later. It had been worth it.