November 6, 2007
By Julie French
ASHLAND, OREGON — Dragonfly Café and Gardens Chef Neil Clooney and his sous chef Noah Edwards went home with the Bronze Skillet in the first Food & Wine Classic hosted by the Ashland Chamber of Commerce at the Historic Ashland Armory this weekend.
The duo beat out seven other teams of local chefs over the two-day “Iron Chef” style competition that required cooks to advance through three rounds, producing dishes from all-local fare – including a special mystery ingredient.
“Doing this twice in one day is not easy,” said judge Corey Schreiber, who started the Wildwood Restaurant in Portland. “I’m noticing a little more study this afternoon.”
In the final showdown Sunday afternoon against the father-son team of James Williams and Skyler Golden from Omar’s Restaurant, Clooney and Edwards won over the judges with a dish of potato-crusted cod on a sunchoke, bacon and parsley puree with wilted Swiss chard and cream of leek sauce paired with a caramelized pear dessert with lime sour cream, crystallized ginger and chocolate sauce. Each pair was required to use cod filets and chocolate.
“I wanted the cod to come out better, but obviously it was good enough,” Clooney said.
He was most proud of his pear dessert, a dish that surprised judges by its last-minute chocolate addition and awed the crowd when he ripped the cardboard tube from his box of aluminum foil to use as a makeshift pastry rolling pin.
“I didn’t think I’d be standing here today,” Clooney said after accepting his award. “I’m looking forward to keeping my championship next year.”
Williams and Golden are already planning a rematch.
“It was a good run,” Williams said. “The best man won today. I’m after him next year.
Smithfields Restaurant and Bar is located at 36 S. 2nd Street, Ashland, Oregon. Call 541-488-9948.
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