Food Network's Simon Majumdar names the winner of Chef Cookoff at Willamette Valley Vineyards, June 23, 2015.Amy Read / Statesman Journal
Dark Chocolate Cherry "Moon" by Chef Kim Banick was served during a chef cook-off judged by Food Network Star Simon Majumdar on Tuesday, June 23, 2015, at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner.DANIELLE PETERSON / Statesman Journal
Chef Kim Banick presents her dish, Dark Chocolate Cherry "Moon", to Food Network Star Simon Majumdar during a chef cook-off on Tuesday, June 23, 2015, at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner.DANIELLE PETERSON / Statesman Journal
Food Network Star Simon Majumdar shares a story with guests during a chef cook-off on Tuesday, June 23, 2015, at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner.DANIELLE PETERSON / Statesman Journal
Tuesday night was all about delicious food, unique wine and new friends, including Food Network star Simon Majumdar.
Although it wasn't the food fight that Statesman Journal Food, Wine and Beer Columnist Victor Panichkul had anticipated, there was definitely competition at the Willamette Valley Vineyards Chef Cook-Off on Tuesday night.
Majumdar was in town promoting his latest book, "Fed, White and Blue." Notable for his role on Food Network's "Cutthroat Kitchen," "Iron Chef America" and "The Next Iron Chef," he was the evening's guest judge. No stranger to sharing his opinion, it was a fitting role for the food journalist.
After signing his book for attendees, Majumdar mingled with the crowd before sitting down for a community dinner.
The evening featured a four-course dinner. Each course, which was prepared by a different local chef, was paired with a different Willamette Valley Vineyards wine.
Majumdar may have been the special guest, but the four chefs who each prepared a special dish for the night made an impact on the crowd.
Opening the evening's culinary experience was Statesman Journal's Food, Wine and Beer Columnist Victor Panichkul. He crafted a salad dish that paid tribute to his eastern roots yet gave a nod to the Northwest that features crab, avocado, mango, and, of course, a dash of sriracha. It was paired with 2014 Rose of Pinot Noir.
"I loved the freshness of Victor's dish," Majumdar said. "It was just the right amount of crab with the creaminess of the avocado."
Although Majumdar appreciated the texture of Panichkul's dish, he felt it lacked salt, and would have liked a little more heat in raspberry sriracha cocktail sauce.
Second up, Willamette Valley Vineyards winery chef Quentin Reavis served Griffin-marinated smoked beef carpaccio with arugula greens, grilled apricots and creamy mustard green sauce. It was paired with a 2011 Griffin Creek "Griffin."
Earlier in the day, Reavis cut his hand and was rushed to the emergency room, but despite his injury, the chef returned and with assistance from the team pulled off his dish.
"Quentin showed us he is an intelligent young cook. He gave us a beautifully smoked beef. He knew what he was doing with the arugula and goat cheese," Majumdar said.
Majumdar appreciated Reavis's dish but made note of something called "Young Chef's Disease — showing everything you know," and said there was too much happening on the plate.
Willamette Valley Vineyards winery chef Eric Nelson offered up a cinnamon and sea-salt-dusted duck breast with buckwheat sweet potato pancake, and sweet and sour cherry gastrique. He topped it at the last minute with a sous-vide egg. It was paired with 2012 Fuller Pinot Noir.
Chef Eric is just a very, very experienced accomplished chef. You could see that. He cooked the duck so perfectly and made an exemplary gastrique."
But for Majumdar, the egg was a miss.
The final course, dessert, was created by Kim Banick of West Salem. Although a home cook, Banick held her own when pitted against 400 cooks in Las Vegas at the World Championship Cookoff last year. For the Willamette Valley Vineyards Cook-Off, she created a dark chocolate cherry "moon" with spicy chocolate mousse, oven-roasted vanilla-balsamic and cardamom cherries, kirsch whipped cream and hazelnut cheesecake truffle with sweet blue cheese blossoms and cherry sauce drops. It was paired with a 2011 Quinta Reserva Pinot Noir Port Style.
By the audience reaction, Banick's dish was the perfect completion for the evening. Even Majumdar was in awe.
"It's an extraordinary hard decision but in the end, I think my choice has to go for — " Majumdar said, before interrupting himself to ask if all audience members received his book.
"In the end, I think I am going to judge on the wine parings but the one that I enjoyed most was … Kim."
cwright2@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6671, find her online at Twitter.com/CarleeWrightSJ and Facebook.com/CarleeWrightSJ