The Challenge of Competing-Take One
The first weekend in February will see hundreds of people gather at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs for the 8th annual Cast Iron Skillet Cook-off. Organized by the Collaborative for 21st Century Appalachia as a way to highlight Appalachian cuisine as a shining magnet for tourism, the Cook-Off is the premier event in the region’s cooking world. Many of West Virginia’s top chefs have competed and this year will see some new faces, not only from the state but as the word has gotten out, the competition will include a class of competitors from other states in the Appalachian region as well.
Getting behind the scenes is fascinating in ways that watching a tv show like the Food Network’s Iron Chef can never share. Last year I participated with my husband on Team Cimino. Headed by father and son chefs Tim and Eli Urbanic of Cafe Cimino in Sutton, the team worked well to prepare its four courses and received the award “Best Representation of Appalachian Cuisine”.
This year my husband is participating on another team, Panorama on the Peak located in Berkeley Springs. Between now and following the Cook-Off I will provide glimpses of the work they undertake to prepare and then their roles in the competition.
As a non-member I must be careful not to offer any suggestions, but truthfully, I am the novice cook here, so anything I might think to offer is kindergarten in comparison to the experience of the Chef. Needless to say, I don’t need to say a thing as Chef Scott Collinash has it well under control. His menu is planned and he is preparing the required paperwork to the Collaborative, indicating the sources of all the ingredients as well as other things.
Restaurant owners Patti Miller and Leslie Hotaling are doing what they can to ease the Chef’s task. Leslie is on the competition cooking team and the chef is relying on her organizational skills now and then to keep everything running smoothly. Patti is helping source the ingredients and she also is watching the expenses.
The Panorama on the Peak does most of its business in the warmer months when tourism is high, so they typically are careful with their winter expenses. Making the decision to participate in the Cast Iron Skillet Cook-off is exciting, but also financially scary. For example, one member of their team, Leslie Baxter, is a culinary student who shadowed Chef Scott for longer than her required time when she was a high school student in the Pro-Start Program. The restaurant is covering her costs to participate.
In order to help the budget, the restaurant is holding a series of fund raisers in the hope that hometown and Eastern Panhandle pride will entice residents to come forward to not only cheer on the local team but provide some financial support. This weekend they held a special event where people could bring in old gold to get cash. Twenty percentage of the total sales was their share and immediately went into the pot to cover costs for the competition.
Coming up are two more fund raisers. Click on Goat & Cello Tasting Town Flyer for the announcement.
The community will have a chance to meet two team members, Priscilla Ireys (known as the Crazy Goat Lady) and Rob Losey (lovingly referred to as the Cello Pimp) on Friday, January 18 from 6-8p.m. Their ingredients will be offered in a special event with tickets set at $35.00 per person. The menu includes Mixed Greens w/ Slow Roasted Goat shoulder, Goat Fajitas Slow Roasted Leg of Goat, Shredded then tossed with Peppers, Onions, and Mushrooms– Seasoned and served in Soft tortilla shells with sour cream, Goat Meatballs – Ground Goat blended with Mediterranean spices, and served with a feta dipping sauce; Lemon Pepper Chicken Bites w/ LimonCello – Chicken Breast coated with lemon pepper seasoning sautéed in butter then simmered in lemon cello; Baked Brie Bites - Brie wrapped in Puff Pastry with walnuts and baked until golden; and Chocolate Truffles.
The second event, to be held January 25 from 6-8 p.m. will be a $50 four-course Prix Fixe offering of the Panorama on the Peak’s competition menu. If you want a sneak peak, this is the time! Chef Scott will be alone in the kitchen on this one; the team is only allowed one practice and that will be held another time. I know whoever attends that event will be most pleased!!
The Panorama on the Peak is located on Route 9 at 3299 Cacapon Road in Berkeley Springs overlooking the beautiful Potomac River. Phone is 304-258-0050.