On Thursday night, Mary and I joined emcee Tom Douglas (Seattle restauranteur and recent guest judge on Top Chef Seattle) in cheering on four local celebrity cheftestants as they chopped and sautéd with four pros from Tom Douglas Restaurants. The catch? They had to create the best dish using items typically found at food banks.
With guests voting via donations to their chef team of choice, each chef duo was competing to whip up top dishes and round up top dollars. Over $100,000 was raised that night to benefit programs and services—food pantries, community gardens, summer meal programs for kids and more—that help our community’s most vulnerable people meet their basic needs.
Dan “What a Catch” Wilson, Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame Catcher and United Way Campaign Co-Chair
Chef Stacy Fortner
Matt “Safe Pitch” Nickerson, Executive Vice President and President, Safeco Insurance, and United Way Board Member
Chef Jonah Smith
Adrian “Hat Tricks” Hanauer, Owner and General Manager, Sounders FC
Chef Matt Anderson
Warren “Rocket Arm” Moon, Seattle Seahawks Quarterback 1997, 1998, NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback
Chef Brian Walczyk
Mary and I quickly chose to cheer for the only team with a female chef (and the only cheftestant I’d previously met), Stacy Fortner and her partner, Dan Wilson. Stacy is the Executive Pastry Chef for all Tom Douglas restaurants and WOW! that girl can cook.
Quick Fire Challenge: Decorate a cookie using the United Way logo.
Sadly, while the challenge was being introduced, Stacy and Dan were strategizing and they missed a key instruction… oops, no United Way logo!
Our team took second place in The Challenge. Team 2, Matt and Jonah, came out victorious and received the first choice of bonus ingredients to supplement the basket of food bank items they received to cook in the Main Event. Matt and Jonah wisely chose the fresh produce, including a pineapple.
The Main Event: Using a selection of items commonly found in a food bank, create an entree to be judged on: Creativity. Appearance. Deliciousness.
Stacy and Dan had a great strategy planned for the food bank challenge. They were going to divide and conquer to impress the judges with not just one dish, but three! While Stacy got the Spam diced and frying in the pan, Dan worked on the bread crumbs and rice. Stacy got the Peanut Butter Fondue started, while Dan expertly grated the cheese curds. At the end of the allotted 30 minutes, they proudly delivered their dishes to the Judges’ Table: Rice Cake appetizer topped with Tomato Sauce and Beecher’s Cheese, Spam Carbonara and Peanut Butter Fondue for dessert.
Jonah and Matt presented a Spam Fried Rice with Pineapple Glaze.
Adrian and Matt, who chose the fresh herbs, garlic and onion as their bonus items (the team that chose these items has always won in the past) hoped that history would repeat itself. They created a Grilled Ramen Block with a Eggplant and Carrot Relish and a Spam-framed Egg.
Brian and Warren received lots of “ohhhhs and ahhhhs” when they presented their Pan-fried NY Strip Steak with Tom’s Rub With Love, Top Ramen Gnocchi (yes! they pulled out all the ramen noodles and made a gnocchi out of them – impressive, right?) and Buttered Popcorn Grits.
It couldn’t have been an easy decision for those judges. The creativity was off-the-charts. And it smelled soooo good in there. Alas, they finally came to a consensus and we were all summoned to Judges’ Table to hear the results.
Side note: About the time everyone was gathered and Tom Douglas asked everyone to quiet down for the big announcement, we heard Alicia Keys from Mary’s phone belting out: “This Girl’s on Fii-ahr (Fire)”. Oops, Mary!! But Go, Stacy!
Well, congrats go to Jonah and Matt, the winners, for the tasty addition of pineapple glaze to their Spam Fried Rice. Using fresh fruits and vegetables put Team 2 over the top. And that just makes sense, right? It was their critical thinking and choice of the fresh fruit and veggies (that are NOT commonly found in a food bank) that led to a big victory. So, the lesson we learned is that fresh ingredients make all the difference when it comes to a tasty meal. We’ll be donating a load of fresh produce along with our canned and dry items to the food bank next week.
A few things to consider as you go about your week:
Since 2008, visits to the food bank are up 30%.
1.3 million visits to the food bank have been supported by the United Way of King County over the past 5 years.
22% of kids in King County experience food insecurity and more than 50% of kids qualify for free or reduced lunch.
What do you do to help those that are less fortunate than you?