MISSOULA, Mont. - For the fourth year in a row, Missoula area chefs gathered to test their skill in a nontraditional setting.
Not only did the chefs have to create five-star quality entrees under a time limit, but do it on a grassy field under a tent.
Jorge Morales represented Plonk in downtown Missoula. Abe Risho is head chef at The Silk Road. Craig Goroski competed for The Ranch Club. Chef Erin Crobar is the chef at The Top Hat.
Pattee Creek Market provided the secret, required ingredients of salmon and avocado, as well as other food products. Summit Beverage provided four types of wine.
Abe Risho took first place. Risho took chances, including blending the secret ingredients into a Pho, Vietnamese noodle soup served with chop sticks, and whipping up salmon ice cream.
Risho has been a chef 18 years; 4 of them at the Silk Road, where about 60 people sit down for dinner each night. I asked him what he hopes people take away from his cooking. He told me his main focus is making sure his food is comforting, yet also challenging to the palate. Risho is expanding to offer spice blends to everyday cooks. In the future, he looks to expand his Silk Road Spice Market retail line.
Erin Crobar holds the top spot for the 2011 and 2012 Cast Iron Chef Cook-Offs, always bringing forward imaginative spins, integrating the wine and other flavors directly into his entrees.
I had the honor of judging the cook-off alongside David Diemer of Pattee Creek Market and Paul Crean of The Resort at Paws Up, who also provided the wine tasting commentary.
Bob Zimorino and Amy Hetzler demonstrated how to make a variety of guacamole dips.
This was the 4th year for the cook-off. Western Montana Fair organizers say they plan to continue to host it each year.