Winner Crowned In Fiery Cooking Competition

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JAMESTOWN – ‘So You Think You Can Cook’ came to an end last night where the competition was so hot: the fire alarm went off.

Contestants Julie Solinger, Matthew Ingrao, and Travis Bensick participated in the final round of the cooking competition with celebrity guest Geoffrey Zakarian at the Crystal Ballroom.

Zakarian is known for his work on Food Network shows like ‘Chopped’ and ‘Iron Chef America,’ as well as his food rescue organization, City Harvest.

“I spend quite a bit of time doing charity, and we have a great charity in New York City, City Harvest, which is where we feed 2.5 million people in New York City,” boasts Zakarian. “We distribute over 100 million pounds of food every year that is from grocery stores and wholesale that is not used so they have to get rid of it, so they give it to us and we distribute it, so we’re very proud of that.”

The chef continued that he believes no one should go hungry, which is why he participated in fundraisers like the one St. Susan’s.

The chefs were tasked with creating three dishes with different mystery bag ingredients.

“There’s talent everywhere, you never know where you’re gonna find the next great chef or great talent,” says Zakarian. “So my eyes are always open and my palette is always ready to welcome someone who really has a distinct and unique perspective about food. Which is what it’s all about.”

The chef’s impressed Zakarian, as well as the evening’s judges; Pati Centi, Justin Gould, and Arthur Pearson. The competition was tied until the final round where Travis Bensik, Wegmans Kitchen Team Leader, won with his dish.

“A lot of creativity. Our other contestants pushing you, you’re looking to see what they’re doing, you’re hearing what they’re doing when Geoffrey’s talking to them,” explains Bensink. “I love this type of competition because everyone’s on a level playing field. It doesn’t matter if you’ve cooked for Disney, or Wegmans, or you’re a stay-at-home cook, it doesn’t matter. Everyone has the same chance when that bag is open, so it’s go time.”

Bensink’s winning dish was deconstructed ‘eggs in purgatory’, a classic Italian dish. He utilized pasta, beef filets, a poached egg, salt, tomatoes, fried basil, and parmesan to secure the win.

He continued that the competition was stressful, given his strong competition as well as the unexpected interruption of the evening.

“The fire alarm was fun to work through because we also are dealing with a time crunch. So we’re listening for how much time we had left, during the fire alarm, while trying to listen to all the speaking that’s going on,” says Bensink.

Nevertheless, all the commotion of the evening was for a good cause, which Bensink says is close to his heart.

“When you look out here tonight, and see almost 200 people here, that are supporting an amazing cause. Everybody knows that there’s a shortage of supplies in the whole food industry. So for everybody to come out tonight, not just to support the chef’s, but to support that great organization is amazing. And to win and have it be on the behalf of St. Susan’s, it makes it even better,” says Bensink.

Bensink encourages others who want to support the organization to sign up for the event next year, saying that anyone can do it.


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