CONWAY — The first edition of Valley Food Fight is in the books, raising more than $6,000 for the Valley Promotions member organizations who participated.
Held on June 8 at Fire by Wicked Fresh, eight local chefs were supplied with three mystery ingredients and instructed to create a TV Dinner, with a twist.
The mystery ingredients, supplied by The Valley Originals and J-Town Deli, were Pork Cracklins, Strawberry Jam jelly beans and Sweet & Sour Purple Cabbage. Interestingly, it was the jelly beans that seemed most difficult for the chefs to incorporate. They did and each presented a different dish. Judge Dave Hausman of Big Dave's Bagels and Deli noted, “I thought we had eight excellent entries and that made the judging incredibly difficult. Each was a meal I would have enjoyed.”
At the end of the event, 16-year-old Ella Fecteau was named the winner.
The reigning Miss Mount Washington Valley Teen made a pork cracklin’ and panko crusted chicken, sliced over sesame orange dressed udon noodles, with a side of Asian coleslaw with purple cabbage, toasted almonds and sesame seeds.
Her dessert was a strawberry jelly bean flavored biscuit with a fresh cherry and fresh strawberry Ginger compote topped with fresh vanilla whipped cream.
“I’m so excited I got to participate in this, it was a ton of fun," Fecteau said."I got to meet a bunch of new people and the whole process was definitely something I’ll never forget. I still can’t believe I won, to be honest — it’s so exciting. The other competitors’ dishes all looked amazing and I wish I could’ve been a judge to try them all but at the same time I don’t envy having to pick a winner because I feel like it was super close. I really hope I can do something like it again.”
Ryan Mayo, executive chef for the Eagle Mountain House placed second for Valley Vision Community Television and Michaela Clement took the third-place spot, representing Project SUCCEED.
“What a great day in the valley. Everyone showed up and really put their best foot forward — I’m super impressed,” said event host and judge Daniel Rassi of Wicked Fresh and Fire by Wicked Fresh, who competed on the Food Network's "Chopped" last fall.
Sara Moore, who brought the idea to Valley Promotions back in November, also served as a judge.
“I’m so impressed with the quality of all the dishes the chefs prepared," she said.
Other chefs and organizations represented included Shannon Narotwicz for Bartlett Athletic & Recreation Association, Kathy Bennett for Friends of the Conway Public Library, Lynn and Ed Kearney for The Barnstormers Theatre, Jason Young for Believe In Books Literacy Foundation and Mark Tapper for Gibson Center for Senior Services. All of the participants were awarded prizes donated by local businesses.
“It was great to see so many great people of the community come out to support their respective organizations,” said judge Matteo Lentini.
Clay Groves, reigning Mount Washington Valley Mr., served as the final judge. “Valley Promotions does such great work in providing a creative platform for nonprofits to raise funds. I’m super proud to be a part of it. Also, I just love eating so the Valley Food Fight was a perfect match,” said Groves, program manager for Magic 104-FM.
According to Valley Promotions Executive Director Lisa DuFault, the organizers are already discussing what the next version of Valley Food Fight should be.
Valley Promotions Board member and Valley Food Fight committee member Emily Calderwood stated she was, “delighted at the generosity of our community supporting our non-profits,” adding, “It was an enormous amount of fun and we’re looking forward to the next one.”
Watch for the program to air on Valley Vision Channel 3 and on Facebook soon. If you are interested in participating in a future version, as a chef or a judge, contact Valley Promotions at email@example.com.