Top Chef does Telluride? Well, sort of. It was more like Iron Chef than Top Chef during last week's culinary competition pitting a clutch of Telluride chefs against one another during the "World Wine Tasting & Telluride Top Chef Competition Fundraiser."
Eliza Gavin, chef and owner of 221 South Oak, took top honors at last Thursday's benefit, organized to support a local mentoring program. The competition, held at The Peaks Resort and Spa, matched four local chefs against one another via four rounds of 30-minute battles.
In predictable Iron Chef-style, just prior to each round, chefs were presented with a mystery ingredient -- in this case, a meat -- they were required to feature in each dish.
In her first round, which featured halibut, Gavin took on Owen, who she narrowly defeated, before going head-to-head against Thomas, this time with lamb.
It took several rounds of voting by the competition's five chefs (one of whom paid $1,000 in an auction for the honor of judging), but Gavin edged out Thomas for the win.
Gavin, who had never before engaged in a timed competition, characterizes the experience as rewarding, but difficult. "My opponents are talented and able chefs and I was nervous going against them," she says. What sweetened the win for her and her assistant, Sue, was winning the competition as females, who are underrepresented in the profession.
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Which dish stole the show? Gavin was pretty impressed with her lamb tartare. "I was very pleased with that." Since the victory, she's been recreating some of her winning dishes at her restaurant, and despite the stress -- and even though she only won a trophy and a toque out of the deal -- Gavin says she'd give competition another go. "Three days ago I was saying I would never do it again, but then two days ago I was like, 'I'm absolutely doing this again!'"
Maybe even for Top Chef: Telluride 2011.
In the meantime, here are the dishes that garnered Gavin this year's Top Chef: Telluride honor:
First Round: Halibut
Grilled halibut with grilled asparagus, housemade elk sausage and balsamic brown butter
Mustard and cumin seed-crusted halibut with zucchini cake and peach red wine jam
Halibut and foie gras ravioli with corn, mushroom and sweet potato reduction
Spicy cherry-glazed halibut with watermelon, fennel, cucumber and mint salad
Third Round: Colorado Lamb
Mustard and smoked paprika-rubbed rack of lamb with sweet potato, cherry and red wine reduction
Balsamic vinegar-glazed rack of lamb with grilled vegetables
Lamb tartare with capers, lemon zest, Serrano ham, shallot and garlic with a blood orange yuzu reduction
Oregano and brown sugar-crusted lamb with cheddar corn cake and broccolini