Chef’s Challenge offers fine dining for a good cause

By on December 13, 2017

Nathan Robinson and Renee Barritt (Kip Tabb)

Fine dining doesn’t always come with a white table cloth as the 4th Annual Beach Food Pantry Chef’s Challenge proved. Working with at least one common household food item, local chef’s turned out some remarkably flavorful and complex creations.

Held at Duck Woods Country Club last Friday evening, the challenge presented to nine Outer Banks chefs was to create a signature dish using a minimum of one canned item found on the shelves of the Beach Food Pantry.

There were two winners this year: A judge’s selection, the Knight of the Culinary Court, and the people’s choice, the Crown Prince or Princess of Canned Goods.

Chef Nathan Robinson of Blue Moon Beach Grill took home the Knight of the Culinary Court with his Cap’n Crunch Fried Chicken with Sriracha Honey Drizzle and loaded Cheddar-Havarti Mac and Cheese. A well-deserved honor, crispy on the outside with just a little bit of heat from the Sriracha balanced by a wonderfully cheesy mac and cheese.

The top prize is the Crown Princess of Canned Goods, and Chef Renee Barritt of Sugar Creek Restaurant deserves a well-done for taste and presentation.

Her dish was a roasted red pepper tomato bisque with smoked Gouda cheese, a comfort food taken to another level. The presentation, though, was almost as good as the dish. Served in miniature soup cans, complete with a pop off lid, the soup rated high on the taste and fun meter.

With nine chefs on hand, the variety of flavors, presentation and creativity was a large part of what made the evening memorable.

Necla Rader’s Chickpea Veggie Marsala over Cumin Rice was a vegetarian dish that had all the elements of a comfort food. Last year’s winner, Brian Harrison from the Jolly Roger prepared a Short Rib Beef Burgundy. Hearty and filling, it was perfect for a cold, rainy winter night.

Dan Lewis and Stephanie Hall.

If a Whimsy Award had been handed out, Dan Lewis from Coastal Provisions would have won it hands down for his Green Eggs and Spam presentation that came complete with Dan and Stephanie Hall dressed up in Dr. Seuss regalia.

But if there was whimsy and fun at the event, the organization the event supports is an important part of the quality of life of the Outer Banks. The Chef’s Challenge helps to fund the Beach Food Pantry’s mission of insuring that Outer Banks families and individuals facing a food crisis can find food during their time of need.

“We’ll probably help around 4100 people this year,” Beach Food Pantry Executive Director Theresa Armendarez said.
The event also highlights the spirit of generosity that is often seen in the Outer Banks community, a spirit that seemed to be on full display at the event.

“We’re grateful for the chefs who donated their time and resources to do this,” Armendarez said. “This is really a giving community and the Pantry does reflect that.”

Relocating from the Hilton Garden Inn to the more spacious Duck Woods Country Club, the 2017 version seemed the best attended yet, an observation confirmed by Armendarez.

“We’re very pleased with how it went,” she said. “We exceeded our goal.”

Most of the food is donated to the Food Pantry and according to information on their website, through November the organization had rescued almost 139,000 pounds of food. Some foods, however, have to be purchased, and the money raised at the Chef’s Challenge is important to insuring there will be food for families in need.

Commenting on how important the event is to the organization, Armendarez noted, “The Chef’s Challenge is going to go far in 2018 in helping the community.”

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