April 29 was an exciting night with an electric crowd packed in close to watch the final seconds Top Chef Martin County’s cooking competition from the large
window overlooking St. Joseph Catholic School’s kitchen. Cheers of encouragement rang out as each attendee rooted for their favorite of the five local amateur chefs. The contenders’ exacerbated sighs and hopeful smiles could be seen broadcast on the large screen allowing those seated throughout the room to also witness the spirited cook-off.
The inaugural Top Chef Martin County benefitted House of Hope bringing longtime supporters and many new faces together for a fun evening of culinary competition, music and dancing, gourmet tasting stations and chic thrift boutique shopping. Each of the competitors’ enjoyed family, friends and colleagues joining in the festivities to help support their race to be named Top Chef Martin County.
Local amateur chefs Jim Matts, Angela Moore-Hodge, Kelli Allison, Adam Fetterman and Jean Cerniglia spent weeks leading up to the event raising funds to support the mission of empowering Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship. Their overall score was to be determined by combining their individual fundraising tallies with their kitchen scores. To determine their kitchen results, a judging panel comprised of Jason Stocks (chef/owner of District Table & Bar), Susan Dennis (TCPalm dining columnist) and Eric Grutka (chef/owner of Ian’s Tropical Grill) announced detailed critiques and encouraging comments to the competitors.
Prior to the event, each amateur chef was told they could bring one favorite ingredient from home and that the featured protein would be chicken. Jason Stocks curated the extensive surprise pantry items which were unveiled to the chefs as the competition clock started ticking. During the 45 minutes of sizzling competition, Eric Grutka interviewed the chefs about their choices and strategy, broadcasting the intensity to the eager crowd which filled the venue.
Creating panko crusted chicken breast with a chili-guava sauce, orange infused quinoa, and ginger garlic sautéed Swiss chard, Adam Fetterman was named Top Chef Martin County overall winner. He also took home the honor of Top Culinary Creation for the highest points scored on his dish. The contender with the largest and most passionate fan base in attendance, Jim Matts, was awarded the trophy for Top Fundraiser, having enthusiastically gathered $9,950 for House of Hope. Each of the competitors submitted fabulous dishes creating very close scores across the board.
This event was made possible by many local sponsors spanning from private individuals to local businesses and organizations. House of Hope thanks: Elaine Matts, Joseph Matson & Linda Mundt, Solar Energy Systems, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, The Firefly Group, FPL, Group One Safety & Security, Geico Local Office, Oxypros Plus, Rider’s Edge Equestrian Center, Fiorella Insurance Agency, Inc., The Fetterman Firm, John and Lynn Sargent, Marie and Michael Elms, Deborah Lovequist, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, The Diamond Tea Room & Bistro, Southern Pig & Cattle, and TooJay’s.
The success of this event and enthusiasm of all who attended has ensured that there will be a second annual Top Chef Martin County in 2018. Applications will be open later this year for local amateurs to submit for a chance to be the next Top Chef Martin County. For more information, visit hohmartin.org.