JAMESTOWN – Three top chefs are moving on to compete in the final round of a local fundraiser that will feature a celebrity guest next week.
The St. Susan’s Center is hosting the fundraiser ‘So You Think You Can Cook’ which caps off with Celebrity Chef judge Geoffrey Zakarian at the Crystal Ballroom next week.
“We’ve been very blessed having some amazing chefs come in through our door to compete It’s been really tough. It’s been interesting because we literally gave them food right out of the pantry to make gourmet dishes with, and that’s been quite a challenge with them, but they’ve done an amazing job. I’m very impressed,” praises Pati Centi, owner of Landmark Restaurant who provided ingredients and knowledge for the competition.
Chefs worked with everyday ingredients that are donated to the soup kitchen to create gourmet meals. The competitors were also judged on a soup they made at home, which spectators got to taste. Centi credits the finalist’s success to their creativity.
“Giving them the products where they have no idea what they’re getting, and then watching them in that short little period of time, turning it over and creating these beautiful dishes that are very restaurant-worthy,” says Centi.
Winner of Tuesday’s cook-off is Travis Bensink, a kitchen team leader at West Ellicott’s Wegmans.
“It’s very difficult, and the people that you compete against are amazing,” boasts Bensink. “Everybody has their own ideas and has their own creations and getting to see their dishes and try a couple of their sauces and other things, I was like, ‘wow, that’s top-notch.’ To be able to come out on top today was great. It felt good because I know their dishes were phenomenal as well. To be able to compete for St. Susan’s and have people in the audience that are coming in and donating their time, donating their money for a great cause makes it feel even better.”
Bensink won the evening with his version of a cuban sandwich: a grilled pork sandwich with grilled zucchini, caramelized balsamic onions, onion jam, blue cheese, and a date, mustard, and applesauce sauce with a side of asparagus fries.
Our very own Justin Gould who helped to judge the event explained how Bensicks’ sandwich won him a spot in the final round.
“I really think over the top, that barbeque feel of the dish got me,” says Gould. “It’s mid-January right now, we just got done covering a snowstorm, and I was really feeling like I needed something from summer. And that’s what pushed me over the top with that dish was the fact that it incorporated a gourmet barbeque sandwich.”
Though Bensick is the only chef from this round heading to the finals, it is important to remember what the real goal of the event is.
“Really at the end of the day, I think everybody’s a winner, especially Jamestown and St. Susan’s Center,” remarks Gould. “It’s really been an honor to be able to partner with them and I can’t wait until next week to see all of the chef’s come together as we celebrate food and celebrate St. Susan’s Center and the amazing things they do here in Jamestown.”
Bensink will face off with Julie Solinger, home cook and 3rd grade teacher, and Matthew Ingrao, Executive Chef of Olive’s & Bellini’s, who won their respective rounds.
The three will face off on Jan 27 in the final round which is hosted by Celebrity Chef Geoffrey Zakarian at the Crystal Ballroom.
This event has been made possible with funding provided by the City of Jamestown Fund for Downtown Programming through the New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative.