John Andreola, Executive Chef of The National Beachfront Resort’s Turtle Grill, and his team used cranberries, zest pumpkin seeds, candy canes and ground venison to make a salad appetizer that one judge said he could “eat every day” and then turned grilled pheasant into the winning entry in the final round.
John Andreola, Executive Chef of The National Beachfront Resort’s Turtle Grill restaurant, prevailed in the final round of the Havasu Top Chef competition conducted by the Lake Havasu Hospitality Association, reported Today’s News-Herald of Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
The competition, conducted at the London Bridge Resort in Lake Havasu City, served as a fundraiser for the hospitality association, with the funds raised funneled back into the community through education and training for hotel and restaurant employees.
Association Board member Sean Williams, who served as co-chair of the event, told Today’s News-Herald that he was overwhelmed with the turnout for the competition and the community support displayed for the event in its third year.
“This is the best turnout of all three years,” Williams said. “We appreciate the support from the community to support the local tourism industry.”
The event serves as the association’s largest fundraiser, with this year’s goal marked at $10,000. It also provides a great opportunity for the public to see what local chefs can do in the kitchen, Williams noted.
Andreola and his team, along with two other teams from local restaurants, advanced to the finals, where the competition revolved around preparation of grilled pheasant entrees, after advancing from the first round. In that round, Today’s News-Herald reported, the competitors had to turn cranberries, zest pumpkin seeds, candy canes and ground venison into an appetizer.
While the judges tasted the food, they chatted among themselves to discuss the various dishes, Today’s News-Herald reported. Mike Condosta, who won a guest judge seat through an auction, made his opinions known as he sampled each dish.
“Wow,” said Condosta as he sampled the Turtle Grill team’s salad appetizer from the first round. “I could eat that every day.”
A retired contractor, Condosta bid $160 to earn the right to be a judge, and said it was worth every penny.
“I do all my own cooking,” Condosta said. “I love food and just believe food should be done right.”
As the final entrée round ended, the other judges reflected on what they said was an amazing night, Today’s News-Herald reported.
“It was cool to see them break down the pheasant,” said Mike Dahling, a Corporate Chef with Shamrock Foods who has been participating in the event since its inception.
Another judge, Craig Pinkard, Executive Chef with a local Bumbleberry Flats restaurant, said he was blown away by the talent on stage.
“They just showed up and showed out,” Pinkard said.
And Ben Groeger, a Culinary Specialist Chef with Sysco Arizona, said he was empathetic with the stress the chefs underwent, because he does what they did every day at his job.
“I’m impressed with what they did,” Groeger said.