– Think of it as Gilroy’s version of

The Iron Chef.

One of the Gilroy Garlic Festival’s most famous attractions is

Garlic Cook-off Event.

Festival goers see it as a close cousin to the cheesy Japanese
TV show aired on the Food Channel.
GILROY – Think of it as Gilroy’s version of “The Iron Chef.”

One of the Gilroy Garlic Festival’s most famous attractions is the “Garlic Cook-off Event.” Festival goers see it as a close cousin to the cheesy Japanese TV show aired on the Food Channel.

The cook-off event is so popular that 275 entries came from 28 states this year to have the chance of being one of the lucky eight finalists.

For garlic glory – and a $1,000 first place prize – these ambitious chefs will prepare their culinary concoctions in a demonstration kitchen before a festival audience.

“We have a lot of local entries and we should, we’re the Garlic Capital of the World,” said Alan Heinzen, recipe contest chair. “I just hope people realize the judges are objective. The finalists were chosen by an out-of-town expert.”

This year’s event will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 28 in a pavilion on the north side of Christmas Hill Park. The winner will be announced at a ceremony shortly after the judges sample all the preparations. And perhaps a cheesy announcer will be describing to the crowd – a la “Iron Chef” – the procedures of preparation.

The rules of the contest require each dish be made to serve six people. It must be prepared in two hours or less. It must be an original recipe. And, oh yeah, it must contain at least six cloves of the stinking rose.

The aromatic cuisine creations will be judged by food experts including Evelyn Miliate of Nob Hill Foods and Raley’s Supermarket, Jay Minzer of Publix Supermarkets in Tampa, Fla., Andrea Froncillo of The Stinking Rose restaurant in San Francisco, Sara Schneider, food editor at Sunset Magazine, Dee Carroll of Carroll Services Inc. in San Rafael and Robert Mancuso of The Sardine Factory restaurant in Monterey.

The finalists have submitted entries with names that make the saliva glands go into overdrive.

“Tres Champignons Al Frente (Three Mushrooms to the Front) Salad” was submitted by Vivian Stuart and Phyl Holt of Gilroy, and “Oven-Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Fermented Black Beans and Blood Oranges” comes from Lisa Carr of Cedaredge, Colo.

Odgen, Utah’s Ruth Kendrick’s “Shrimp and Crab Garlic Spring Rolls” sound scrumptious as appetizers. And the “Portobello Mushroom and Garlic-Stuffed Roasted Flank Steak” recipe from Sacramento’s Bruce Pierini sounds like a hearty meal.

Fresno’s Michelle Anderson didn’t fritter her time away when she submitted “Gilroy Fritters,” and Los Angeles’ Amber Antonazzo’s “Breaded Pork with Garlic, Date and Tangerine Sauce” also will tempt the judges’ palates.

“The Garlic-Scented Seafood Cakes with Citrus Salsa and Chipotle Aoili” recipe was devised by Beth Royals of Richmond, Va. and the “Senegalese Chicken Turnovers with Garlic Curry Cream” comes from Elaine Sweet of Dallas, Texas.

Stuart and Holt are the only cook-off competitors with South Valley connections. Stuart was born in Morgan Hill, and has lived in Gilroy for 14 years. Holt now lives in Carmel.

“I’m thrilled and so is Phyl to represent Gilroy and our garlic,” said Stuart, 83. “We are both pretty nervous to be cooking in front of all those people.”

The dynamic chefs will use eight cloves of garlic in their recipe, and the garlic and mushrooms in the dish will have been grown locally, she said.

“We bought our garlic at LJB Farm and our mushrooms at Royal Oaks Mushroom Farm,” she said. “We like to buy locally because that way it’s fresh, and the garlic here is so good. I always use a lot of garlic in my cooking because it tastes good, and, well, I live in Gilroy.”

The two have also practiced long hours developing their techniques in cooking up their creation.

“We need to keep practicing,” Stuart said. “I’m trying to get down the exact amount of time it takes to cook so I can serve it hot to the judges.”

After the cook-off, “celebrity” chefs will give demonstrations of other recipes using garlic as an ingredient.

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