Chef Dean Dupuis delights for 2011 Garlic Showdown top prize

Chef Dean Dupuis delights for 2011 Garlic Showdown top prize

Dean Dupuis had an answer to the culinary riddle, meshing the
two secret ingredients into a pair of delectable dishes that teased
taste buds and earned the Executive Chef of Pican Restaurant in
Oakland the title and top prize of $5,000 at the 2011 Garlic
Showdown on Sunday at the 33rd Gilroy Garlic Festival.
View more photos of the 2011 Gilroy Garlic Festival at our
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Romanesco and garlic sausage – say what?

Dean Dupuis had an answer to the culinary riddle, meshing the two secret ingredients into a pair of delectable dishes that teased taste buds and earned the Executive Chef of Pican Restaurant in Oakland the title and top prize of $5,000 at the 2011 Garlic Showdown on Sunday at the 33rd Gilroy Garlic Festival.

“I’m blown away,” Dupuis said after Garlic Festival president and one of the five judges, Kurt Svardal, unveiled the final decision in front of a lively crowd of cooking enthusiasts gathered around the Cook-Off stage.

“I had imagined that there would be some chicken product available, some things like that. I just imagined that was the situation, and it wasn’t,” Dupuis said. “Luckily, we came up with a good plan. My sous chef (Chenoa Bol) did a great job. We had a few things we were going to make no matter what, but definitely the sausage and the romanesco threw us off.”

Dupuis managed the curve ball well and developed the winning cuisine, which included biscuits with garlic pepper jelly, “because you’ve got to have a bread course” and a Southern summer panzanella salad with a few twists that fit Dupuis personality and southern-style influence.

“Our bread portion was a pancake we made with romanesco,” Dupuis said, colorfully describing the concoction. “We did some fresh tomato, some fresh peaches, which is very Southern. We made a barbecue dressing with romanesco in it as well to kind of tie it together. And we did some sausage chicharons on top.”

The Garlic Showdown, which serves as one of the Sunday staples at the Garlic Festival, pitted four professional chefs – Dupuis, Brandon Chase Miller, Executive Chef of Mundaka in Carmel, Executive Chef Luca Rutigliano of CordeValle Resort and Executive Chef Sebastian Nobile of Oak Tree Ristorante in Felton – against one another in an Iron-Chef-esque competition. Given one hour to prepare and plate two dishes, which had to feature the secret ingredient, or in this case, ingredients, every bit of the chefs’ experience in the kitchen was put to the test.

The foursome had 30 minutes prior to the start of the showdown to familiarize themselves with all of the other “pantry items” before the revelation of the star ingredients. The garlic sausage is self-explanatory, the romanesco, on the other hand, is also referred to as Roman cauliflower, and takes precise preparation in order to get the desired result.

“The romanesco is something you have to know how to work,” Nobile said. “It’s not like you can do what you want with it. You have to know how to cook it.”

Nobile said he had to re-adjust his thinking a bit, figuring there would be some sort of meat or fish offered, while Chef Miller thought the two surprises fit perfectly into his plans.

Celebrity emcee, Chef Angelo Sosa, who after three days in Gilroy looked right at home, led the anxious attendees in a countdown from five, signaling the start of the competition. And soon, distinct aromas floated from each workstation and blended together as they drifted off into the open air.

Periodic time checks were verbalized as Sosa, who slowly grew into his new role of host after some friendly tips from audience members on how to hold the microphone, milled about the stage, leaping over the guardrails on a few occasions to mingle.

Taking quick pauses here and there to explain the goings-on in front of them – Rutigliano tried to win over the fans’ affection, tossing little parting gifts into the grandstands – the chefs and sous chefs meticulously and methodically meddled around their selection of ingredients, demonstrating unique technique and unwavering precision under the mounting pressure.

“I am so impressed with the creativity and the daring, the risk, that these chefs took,” said Gloria Melone, the widow of Garlic Festival co-founder, Dr. Rudy Melone, who went from her own cooking demonstration an hour earlier to the judges chair.

The urgency multiplied as time ticked toward 10 minutes and the first platings began. The hustle and bustle continued until Sosa again led everyone in a count-along to close out the one-hour time limit.

Each contestants’ contributions were judged in intervals of 20 minutes. Dupuis, was the last to face the music. And apparently, it was worth the wait.

“As soon as he put that dish in front of me and I married all those ingredients, it blew everybody away,” celebrity judge Michael Giletto, Executive Chef of Gourmet Butterfly Media and Ocean Place Resort and Spa, said. “What stood out the most in my mind was how creative he was in incorporating the secret ingredients in the final application of the dish. He was able to incorporate the secret ingredients as flavors and not just as a body of texture. He kind of nailed it and brought it all together.”

Bill Christopher, President of Christopher Ranch and Dennis Harrigan, a festival volunteer for 20 years running, were the other two judges.

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