By J James McTigue
“Last year was the inaugural year of the One to One Top Chef event and the community rallied behind the cause." Rick Fusting, One to One board President, said of the non-profit organization’s annual event and fundraiser. “And it turned out everyone had a great time, but this year we want to make it that much better.”
This year’s Top Chef event is happening on Friday August 12th from 5 pm to 9 pm at the Peaks Resort and Spa. The event pits four chefs against each other in a friendly cooking competition loosely modeled after reality TV competitions like Iron Chef and Hell’s Kitchen.
The event benefits the One to One San Miguel Mentoring Program, an organization that vets, trains, supports and matches adult volunteers with young people who can benefit from an additional stable adult in their lives.
According to One to One’s Executive Director, Vivian Russell, “Top Chef is a great way to rally the community for a fun event of food and wine and to support a great cause at the same time.”
At this year’s event, local celebrity chef, Eliza Gavin, owner and executive chef of 221 South Oak Street and winner of last year’s Top Chef, is returning to take on Peter Cumplido, the executive chef at Hotel Madeline; John Gerona, owner and chef of Bread and Roses Catering; and Stephen Roth, the executive chef at Allred’s.
According to Russell, the competition goes as follows. Two chefs are paired against each other and the winner of each round advances to the final, for a total of three rounds. All chefs receive the same basic “pantry items” (which have been revealed and are posted on Facebook) and they can also bring their own spices, fresh herbs and a sous chef to help them out.
In each round the two competing chefs receive the same “mystery basket” from which they are required to use all ingredients to prepare their dish. The contents of the mystery basket change with the rounds.
A panel of five judges, comprised of local personalities including Sheriff Bill Masters and cookbook writer extraordinaire, Susanna Hoffman, determines the winners. All but one judge is chosen before the event, and that final seat is auctioned off right before the competition.
“Last year Sally Puff Courtney won it [the guest judge seat],” Fusting said, “And she had a blast on the judge’s panel; she got to sample a lot of delicious and creative dishes from our chefs.”
According to Russell, more people wanted to taste the chef’s creations last year, so new to the event is the People’s Choice award. Each chef will prepare samples of an original appetizer that everyone can taste, then vote on their favorite. The winning chef will be determined the People’s Choice.
“The $65 ticket gets you a sample appetizer from the competing chefs, original appetizers from the Peaks Executive Chef, Lynn Tilyou, and all the wine you can drink,” Russell said. “Kini Kin Farms donated grass-fed lamb and homemade Amish pork sausage for Chef Lynn to use to make her appetizers.”
“There’ll be music from Rob Drabkin and Kyle James Hauser, who will be opening for G-Love and the Special Sauce the next night in Breckenridge,” she added, “so they’ll bring a little funk to the party.”
Amidst the live cooking, appetizer sampling, wine tasting and dancing, there will also be a silent auction.
“We had about 300 people at the event last year,” Fusting said. “People really enjoyed the culinary atmosphere; they enjoyed the wines. It’s a great summer time function—and people really let loose.”
Fusting, Russell, and all of the kids in the One to One program, are excited for the same turnout this year.
Tickets are available at Telluride Bottle Works, Rick Fusting’s Sotheby’s Real Estate office on Main Street and online at brownpapertickets.com. For more information go to the Telluride Top Chef Facebook page.
To learn more about the One to One organization, press play on the vidcast at the top of the page.