When The Great Garlic Cook Off started July 28, the second day of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, Todd Antepenko was ready for the judges to taste his creation. Antepenko’s ‘Gilroy garlic asian inspired baby back ribs’ had been a recipe 10 years in the making.
Celebrity chef and former Olympian, Brian Boitano, took the stage to announce the winner of the amateur cook-off. He opened the envelope, looked down and promptly said, “and the winner is… the ribs!” Antepenko was crowned, but as his friends and family cheered from the stands, those on stage quickly realized there had been a mistake.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe I did this,” Boitano said during his self-described “Steve Harvey” moment. The crown was taken off of Antepenko’s head and given to Will Simbol, the true winner of the cook-off.
Shannon Antepenko started to cry, first when she thought her husband won the $5,000 prize and then when she realized he hadn’t. “It was a complete cluster,” she said.
As Simbol celebrated his win for his ‘savory, crunchy, freshy, tangy, shrimpy, herby, garlic lumpia wrap,’ the Antepenko family became frustrated.
“We’re not sore losers,” said Shannon Antepenko. “But you don’t just announce that and then take it away.”
Todd Antepenko said that overall the competition experience had been great, but that he couldn’t hide his disappointment from what happened.
“It’s like Miss America,” he said. “One second I’m the winner, the next second I’m not.”
Simbol wasn’t upset by the momentary mix-up and said it was fixed quickly.
Simbol’s fiancée had encouraged him to enter the competition, and he flew from New York to participate. “I thought, hey, what have I got to lose,” said Simbol.
As for what he will do with his prize money, “I’m going to have a nice dinner with it,” said Simbol. “And then I’m going to put it away.”
For Shannon Antepenko it didn’t matter how quickly the mix-up was fixed. “We have people who flew in for this,” she said.
Her brother, Chris Butler, caught the moment on video. As the confusion ensues, Butler can be heard saying, “Come on Brian, you’re killin’ me.”
Event staff explained to the Antepenko family that Boitano had accidentally read the recipes listed as opposed to the winner, which was written on another slip of paper. Todd Antepenko was given several passes to various stands around the festival by festival staff. All event finalists who did not place received a $100 prize.