Chefs Showdown promotes culinary education and local agriculture during Reno Bites Week


QUICKLY NOW: Chef Bill Gilbert of Beaujolais Bistro in Reno starts to plate one of his dishes with quail from Sierra Meat Company, one of the competition’s secret ingredients / Photo by Erin Meyering

Eight of the top chefs in the area gathered at Czyz’s Appliance on Saturday to participate in the Chefs Showdown as a part of the 2nd Annual Reno Bites Week.

Adam Bronson of Rapscallion Seafood House won the overall competition, while Chef BJ Mueller of Sauce Wagon won “Best Presentation” and Pim Marshall of Lanna Thai Café & Culinary School won “Best Use of Ingredients.”

With premium bragging rights at stake, each chef came into the competition with his or her own strategy – Mark Estee of Campo and chez louie even wore purple jeans.

“I’d like to remember the fundamentals [of cooking],” Chef Bill Gilbert of Beaujolais Bistro said. “That’s what great ideas are build off of.”

Reno Bites Chefs Showdown runs similarly to the popular Food Network competition Iron Chef – the chefs had one hour to cook, a stocked pantry and several mystery ingredients to inspire their quick culinary creations.

FOCUS: Sera Ford, a junior at the AACT, concentrates as she helps winning chef, Adam Bronson of Rapscallion Seafood House. / Photo by Erin Meyering

The event was free to the public and spectators were encouraged. In addition, tables for each participating chef were available for purchase; table members were allowed to eat the food their chef prepared.

Another key point in the Chefs Showdown was that each competing chef had a student from the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology (AACT) assisting them. Whether it was by running ingredients, helping prep vegetables or observing, each student had a hands-on cooking experience.

“It lets [the students] know every chef has their own attitude, their own style and that there are 10 different ways to cook the same item,” Lee Willhelm, Chef Showdown judge and AACT teacher, said.

The students from the vocational high school had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with ingredients they may not have access to on a daily basis.

Most of the available ingredients at the chef showdown were locally sourced, including the competition’s secret ingredients: butternut squash from Nevada Fresh Pak, quail from Sierra Meat Company, Hawaiian ginger from Custom Gardens Organic Farm and fresh, live tilapia (which made for an interesting start to the competition as each chef fished for their main protein) from Hungry Mother Organics.

In addition, Nevada Grown, a non-profit promoting wellness through sustainable, fresh ingredients, gave out complimentary bags of local produce including winter squash and onions from Yerington and garlic from Minden, Nev.

“We want people to know we grow things here,” Nevada Grown board member Ann Louhela said.

For a complete list of chefs who competed and more information on Reno Bites, check out their Facebook page here.