busting a culinary move at the bite.As the saying goes, those who can't do, critique. Okay, maybe that's not exactly how it goes, but when it comes to cooking and me, that's certainly the case. Generally, I sit in judgment anonymously at a corner table scribbling in my notebook at a safe distance from the action in the kitchen. But at last weekend's Top Chef competition at the Bite of Bend, I had the opportunity to witness eight of the area's best go head-to-head live, and never has the depth and talent of Central Oregon's culinary pool been so evident. Chefs were given a list of the pantry's contents in advance but not the main protein they'd have 45 minutes to incorporate into both an appetizer and an entree.
With pork cheek medallions, veal New York strip loin, rabbit and opah (moonfish) as the proteins featured in Saturday's four preliminary rounds, I couldn't have been happier. Rosco Roberson of Kokanee Café took round one largely for his watermelon-ginger pork cheek soup. Crosswater's Bill Ballard killed in round two with both of his veal dishes, particularly his entrée of pan-roasted veal loin with smoked asparagus and artichoke heart salad. For ingenuity, Marz Bistro's Rich Hall took round three for his rabbit tenderloin and chevre ravioli on a bed of braised arugula. And in the fourth, Dave Nathan of Café 3456 cleaned up with his scallop, shrimp and opah.
I wasn't fortunate enough to judge Sunday's final rounds-I totally got bumped for Kristi Miller and CJ from season three of Bravo's "Top Chef"-but as those rounds featured lamb kidney, cuttlefish and foie gras, three of my least favorite foods, I guess better them than me. I took a seat among the riffraff to watch as Kokanee Café took down Crosswater in semifinal round one; Café 3456 smote Marz Bistro in semifinal round two; and Kokanee Café's Rosco Roberson came out victorious in the finals against Café 3456 and won bragging rights as well as the opportunity to compete at the Bite of Oregon in August. Good luck, Rosco. Make us proud.