Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 4, 2013

Chefs sharpen knives, skills for food contest

BY CYMBRE FOSTER Special to the
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Two years ago then-culinary student Nick Aslanian helped his team take home top honors at the annual Chef’s Challenge at Boyne Mountain Resort.

Aslanian returns this year to compete as a chef in the sixth annual food challenge. The event showcases the best culinary teams, ingredients and products Michigan has to offer.

Proceeds benefit Challenge Mountain, a nonprofit organization that provides free adaptive outdoor recreational opportunities to people with special needs and their families. Challenge Mountain’s programs include downhill skiing, snowboarding, sailing and cycling.

“It’s really for a good cause,” said Aslanian, who will represent Apache Trout Grill of Traverse City, which is competing in the challenge for the first time. “For us as chefs it’s a lot of fun and we’re helping out Challenge Mountain. It’s a win-win.”

This year’s Chef’s Challenge includes a tasting competition, culinary seminars, and food and beverage displays. It culminates in the new “Chop Challenge,” in which teams compete in three rounds using a common pantry with general ingredients and a basket of mystery items revealed just before the start of the countdown clock. After each round, the team with the lowest score is eliminated from the competition.

The weekend kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday, April 12, with six high school teams competing as Future Chefs and the opportunity to meet the celebrity chefs and judges. General admission is $10, which includes hors d’oeuvres.

Saturday, April 13 begins with free food, beer, wine and wellness seminars from 9 a.m. to noon. The “Taste of Michigan” tasting competition is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

According to organizers, “Taste of Michigan” is an opportunity for Michigan restaurants, schools and chefs to show off their talents, gain exposure for their establishments and help raise funds for Challenge Mountain.

Teams compete by preparing an entrée paired with a fine Michigan wine and a Michigan microbrew. Competitors must focus on the use of indigenous Michigan products. At 1:30 p.m., three celebrity chefs will determine the four winners who will go on to the Chop Challenge from 2 to 4 p.m.

A $30 ticket gets people eight tasting tickets for the “Taste of Michigan” as well as admission to the seminars and the Chop Challenge, where they can watch the elimination, said event organizer Rebecca Harris.

Tickets are $5 for the Dessert Challenge that will follow.

Aslanian, who has competed in similar events in London, England and Cincinnati, said he loves the competition but that it can also be very intense. He and his team have not only been working on perfecting the dishes the judges will be sampling, but also have been practicing run-throughs for the Chop Challenge.

“It’s the biggest adrenalin rush you’ll ever get and some of the best fun you’ll ever have,” he said.

For online tickets, or to see the complete list of seminars and celebrity chefs, visit Tickets also can be purchased at the door.

Special lodging rates also are available at Boyne Mountain Resort. For more information, call 1-800-462-6963 or visit

Sorrel Pesto

1 lb. sorrel (trimmed, blanched 2 seconds)

1 garlic clove

1/4 c. Parmesan

1/2 c, olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Add all Ingredients to food processor; blend until incorporated (should be spreadable consistency, not too oily).

Sorrel is a great substitute for herbs or spinach. It has an earthy taste and a vibrant color, Great for springtime bruschetta.

Source: Nick Aslanian

Grilled Spring Vegetable Salad with Citrus Ramp Vinaigrette

1 zucchini (washed, trimmed, cut on bias)

1 yellow squash (washed, trimmed, cut on bias)

1 stalk asparagus (snap end at natural point)

1 red onion (trimmed, sliced into 1-inch rounds)

1 lb. arugula (washed, dried)

1 lb. ramps (washed, trimmed)

¼ c. rice wine vinegar

½ lemon (juiced)

½ lime (juiced)

1 T. Dijon mustard

2 c. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups parsley (washed, trimmed, finely chopped)

Toss all sliced vegetables with 1 cup of oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill all vegetables, taking off onions first, then asparagus, and finally squash and zucchini. Set aside. Place ramps in food processor and blend. Add rice wine vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice and Dijon mustard. Blend until incorporated. Slowly add remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss grilled vegetables with arugula, vinaigrette and parsley. Serve

This is a great salad for springtime and is easy to make. Bold flavors with seasonal vegetables.

Source: Nick Aslanian