The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

Pork Battle! A New Chef Wins Celebrity Throwdown

This year’s Celebrity Chef Throwdown at the West Virginia Culinary Classic presented two interesting twists.

One, last year’s same chefs competed in a heated (not really) rematch between returning winner Chef Gene Evans for Northern Community College and challenger Chef Tom Grant from Carver Career and Technical Center.

And, two, the competition threw in a reality show-like whammy this year!

Just five minutes before both teams started cooking, each chef got to select an ingredient (in addition to the mystery ingredient) that the opposing chef HAD to incorporate into one of their dishes.

Chef Gene took it easy on Chef Tom, choosing flatbread that was sautéed in olive oil to serve in an Italian-Mediterranean-style dish of pesto gnocchi with red peppers, toasted flatbread and fried basil leaves. Tom did not return the nicety, giving Gene Corn Chex that had to be incorporated into a dish.

Undeterred, Gene presented a pork roulade stuffed with a goat cheese and Corn Chex stuffing that looks pretty darn tasty.

It wasn’t enough, though. In a heated (not really) battle, Chef Tom dethroned Chef Gene’s team by capping off his three-dish presentation with an Oreo crème brulee made on-the-spot without the benefit of an oven.

While all of this was going on, there were NO winners at a new “Man vs. Food” event in which four strapping guys were challenged to try to finish a two-pound pulled pork sandwich (complemented with a pound of slaw and fries) in just an hour’s time.

I thought someone would do it, that is, until I saw these sandwiches, which were BEASTS. Not a single guy met the challenge, but God bless ‘em for trying. I’m sure they still haven’t recovered!

For those who were intrigued by last week’s post, I gotta tell you that New Year’s Eve at Bridge Road Bistro totally rocked …

We enjoyed toasting the end of 2010 at the restaurant that night with some really great food. (See the full four-course menu a couple of posts down.) My wife had the crab cake, beet salad, striped bass and apple tart, while I enjoyed the quail, baby bibb salad, lamb chops and decadent chocolate cake. Not a sub-par dish in the bunch.

Love that Bistro!

In case you missed this big news over holiday, I wanted to give a much-deserved shout-out to my friend – and Stonewall Resort chef – Fransicso “Paco” Aceves, who has been selected to cook at the legendary James Beard House in New York City.


He will join four other chefs from Benchmark Hospitality International (Stonewall’s parent company) to cook a seven-course holiday dinner there on Dec. 16. It’s the sixth consecutive year chefs from Benchmark properties have been invited to cook at the James Beard House. Former Stonewall chef Dale Hawkins also received the honor a few years ago.

Before moving to the Lewis County resort, Paco was executive chef at Charleston’s Bridge Road Bistro under the direction of Robert Wong. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and worked in some pretty high-profile kitchens before landing in West Virginia.

He has been a banquet chef at the four-diamond La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa in Santa Fe and sous chef at the Houston Country Club in Houston, where he trained under Certified Master Chef Fritz Gitschner. (There are fewer than 100 Certified Master Chefs in the world, by the way.)

During his tenure there, Paco was chosen by Gitschner to participate as part of the United States culinary team at the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France, one of the world’s most distinguished culinary competitions. He also apprenticed at Handke’s Cuisine in Columbus, Ohio, where he trained under another Certified Master Chef, Hartmut Handke.

With credentials that impressive, it may come as no surprise that he’s cooked at the James Beard House before.

Way to go, Paco!

The Benchmark Holiday Dinner will begin at 7 pm on Dec. 16 with an hors d’oeuvres and wine reception, followed by a seven-course chefs tasting menu starting at 8. Reservations can be made by calling the James Beard House at 212-627-2308. The cost is $130 per person for members of the James Beard Foundation and $170 per person for the general public.   

The James Beard House was home to the storied James Beard, America’s first celebrity chef who is celebrated today as the dean of American Cookery. A gifted impresario who along with his great friend, Julia Child, led the way for many of today’s celebrity chefs, James Beard established cooking schools and published more than 20 important cookbooks, many of which are still in print.