The Challenge of Competing – Take Two
Preparing for a dinner party can raise anxiety levels in any cook and entering the prestigious Cast Iron Skillet Cook-Off to be held at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs with a team of unknown help can result in more than a few sleepless nights. But James Beard nominee Scott Collinash believes he will dream better now. His team has had their sanctioned practice session and he knows this is definitely going to work.
Gathering at Berkeley Spring’s Panorama on the Peak, the team reviewed the menu and their assignments before heading into the kitchen.
The preparation that has kept Chef Scott and restaurant owners Patti Miller and Leslie Hotaling busy has included detailed assignments of each team member’s tasks, including assembling all the ingredients and equipment needed to complete one of the recipes. The first step for team members was to review the lists and check all the items at their station.
The differences between trained commercial chefs and home cooks of various levels of skill became apparent immediately. As the cooking session ran its timed hour, it became obvious that the work station review had not been done adequately and during the course of the cooking there were frequent shouts for “bowl needed!” or “Where’s my butter?”. The chef had purposely omitted at least one item at each station that was on the list and the team members will be much more observant when setting up their prep areas at the competition following that exercise.
Restaurant kitchen space is notoriously small, but when you crowd ten people into a tiny room, each ends up with a work space of about two feet. Fitting all the food, equipment and the gas burner used for cooking in that space will make the four 8-foot tables assigned to them at the competition seem spacious.
The count-down clock started and activity revved up. The Chef manned the prep station but frequent calls for “Chef Check!” punctuated the hour and it became very obvious that the Pro-Start student assigned to the team will be welcomed eagerly at that station. As various other members of the team completed their tasks, they relieved the Chef at the prep station and Chef Scott’s time was then spent moving from station to station to verify quality of completion.
Despite the relative levels of skill of the team members and the tight quarters, all four dishes were prepared well within the mandated time period. After being plated and then carried out to the dining room as practice for presentation to the competition judges, the team tucked in and enjoyed the fruit of their labor.
Another sit down discussion followed to analyze issues that occurred and ways to improve technique. And at least one more chorus of the restaurant’s acclaimed theme song was belted out with enthusiasm.
The Cast Iron Skillet Cook-Off takes place Saturday, February 2 and is open to be viewed by the public. Tasting of the prepared foods is restricted to the judges but you have the sublime opportunity to eat the entire meal this Friday, January 25 at the Panorama on the Peak. reservations are required and the meal is $50 per person with 30% being a donation to cover the costs incurred to participate in this prestigious competition.
Panorama on the Peak 3299 Cacapon Road (Route 9), Berkeley Springs, WV 304-258-0050
Just two hours from Washington, DC and two hours from Morgantown, WV.