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Chef Adam Weiss of Esty Street in Park Ridge defeated chef.Ninamarie Bojekian of Ooh La La Catering in Franklin Lakes to win the Ultimate Chef Bergen County competition at Chef Central, Paramus, on February 16. The secret ingredient was tea.
For his first course, Weiss made a complex soup involving Thai red curry, coconut, lemongrass, white tea, mussels, rice vermicelli and cilantro.
He followed that with quail brined in honey-rooibos tea, roasted and served with Israeli couscous, capers, cucumber, toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs, poached quail egg, mache and Meyer lemon vinaigrette.
His entree was Berkshire pork tenderloin smoked in lapsang souchong tea, served with Anjou pear-cranberry sauce, candied sweet potato puree, braised collard greens and hoisin glaze.
For dessert he presented "Tea For Two and Two For Tea," consisting of spiced chai tea ice cream, tea berry compote, hibiscus tea scone, jasmine tapioca pearls and vanilla tea
For her part, Bojekian started with Earl Grey tea muffins and poached eggs topped with green tea salt, served with julienned radish, cucumber and cantaloupe salad. She paired that with a “Bloody Maria” made with blood orange juice, hisbiscus tea, Tabasco and vodka.
Her second course was a chamomile vichyssoise with crispy spaetzle, orange zest, bacon and chives
For an entree she presented chicken smoked in jasmine tea, served with dried plums poached in darjeeling tea, pickled apple-cilantro relish and basmati rice.
Her finale was a butterscotch chai tea budino with rose tea caramel sauce, whipped crème fraiche and pretzels. She served it with Vina Santo Wine.
My fellow judges--Susan Sherril, food editor of The Record, and Thomas Griffiths, senior executive chef and director of Campbell's Culinary Institute--had a tough job.
The scores were very high, and very close.
Chef Bojekian lost points on plating. Also, her vichyssoise was too thick with cream and too cold, so it was hard to distinguish the spices she used.
Chef Weiss had some whimsical plating--for example, he filled a tea bag with herbs and attached an Esty Street label. For drama rather than whimsy, he presented the mussel soup under a cloche. For his dessert he used individual tea pots filled with vanilla tea to pour over the jasmine tapioca pearls.
Judging these two talented chefs It was gut-wrenching. It came down to fine points. In the end, the three of us voted unanimously for chef Weiss.
I have been judging this contest for a few years and was so impressed with the dishes made by both of these very talented chefs. They both deserve to be congratulated for an outstanding job.
PHOTOS: Courtesy Lowell Saferstein