So Tom Brannon from our local CBS station was the emcee - here he is interviewing Chef Malik after her win.
As the chefs cooked, the judges watched and jotted down notes. Two of the judges were Chef Paul Novicky, owner of my former favorite restaurant Nu, now closed. Chef Novicky now provides whole foods to students at The Anthony School, which I think is an outstanding program! To Chef Novicky's left is his fellow judge - Peabody Chef Andre Poirot.
After the chefs finished cooking their dishes, the judges returned to their table to taste and deliberate. Here sits Paul Bash, who brought about some of the best restaurants Little Rock ever had to offer, including Alouettes, where I worked briefly. Presenting Dover Sole at tableside was not a task that I mastered well. I was supposed to debone the fish in a few quick steps, then lift the entire skeleton out. I always had to ask for assistance with this. Especially if it's a Rockefeller you're serving, you'd rather have help than to leave bones in their fish!
Speaking of sole, it was one of the mystery ingredients in the basket in heat two! Along with Doritos! Here it looked like Chef Donnie Ferneau added some pistachios to his crumbled Doritos. At least that's what Chef Novicky said he thought it was when I asked him.
Along with the sole and Doritos, the mystery basket revealed some Patron tequila, bok choy, and Creekstone Farms teres major beef. I found in an article online about a butcher's best kept secret that the teres major is the muscle that sits on top of the shoulder blade. According to this source, cuts of the teres major look and taste like tenderloin. Not that you'll find it in any grocery store very easily. Especially here in Little Rock anyway.
Chef Ferneau's sous chef diced the beef, mixed in diced jalapenos, then made empanadas using won ton skins with a dab of the Coleman sour cream, another ingredient that needed to be used by the competing teams.
Team Ferneau's finished plate...
Team Ferneau lost by a really, really small margin to Chef Jason Knapp of the University of Central Arkansas. However, Chef Ferneau did win the final event in 2008. Chef Knapp's plate above. I love the tricolor confetti!
Chef Jeffrey Ferrell of Capital Hotel competed against Chef Diana Bratton of Taco Mama and Cafe 1217, then advanced on to the semi - finals to compete against Chef Jason Knapp. Chef Bonner Cameron of Ya Ya's Euro Bistro, one of my two favorite restaurants, also competed against Chef Steven Burrow of our Clinton Presidential Center. Chef Cameron had a nice cheering section of staffers from his restaurant.
Chef Knapp looks over the big screen above as the winner of the first semi - final is announced. Chef Cameron would be advancing to the final round June 5th at the Statehouse Convention Center.
In round two, Chef Malik worked with Steelhead, which looks and tastes just like salmon to me. Sous chef Richard worked on the strip loin.
I thought their finished plate looked pretty and tasty.
The last mystery basket of the evening in the Diamond Chef Arkansas Preliminary Contest 2012 was unveiled by Todd Gold, director of the Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School. More beef from Creekstone farms, more liquor, and a Snowball snack. Or did the last heat have a Snowball? I don't know if I'd rather cook with that or the Funyons from heat 3!
My friend Bob Steel of KARN News Radio did a great job as an emcee of heat two. I helped test the microphone as I suggested we resume talking about politics and our state government. Who better to add to that conversation than one of my besties, Kristi McKinnon.
As the guys started work on the final fish of the night, I ducked out. I heard that Chef Knapp and Chef Cameron would be battling it out at the final Diamond Chef Arkansas event June 5th at the Statehouse Convention Center. If you have $150 to spare for a ticket, it's a great time! I attended in 2010, with the B98 group, and we enjoyed a delicious sit down meal and a great show!