The Pulaski Technical College Foundation and the Peabody Little Rock hosted the preliminary rounds of the 2009 Diamond Chef Arkansas competition Tuesday in the hotel lobby.
The first heat featured chefs Michael Powell, executive chef for Chenal Country Club, and Ted Roman, executive chef at the Arlington Hotel. Chef Powell won the competition and the right to advance to the final heat of the day.
The second heat featured Jason Knapp, executive chef at the Arkansas Governor's Mansion, and Cindy East, lead instructor at the Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School. Arkansas' First Lady Ginger Beebe was on hand to cheer Chef Knapp on to victory.
In the final heat of the day, the surprise ingredients were announced promptly at 5:25: brie cheese, turnip greens, bourbon, sunflower seeds and kangaroo. Semi-finalists, Chef Knapp with sous-chef Alicia Hamilton from the Arkansas Governor's Mansion and Chef Michael Powell with sous-chef Shauna McGill from Chenal Country Club went right to work, each trying to craft a seat-of-the-pants masterpiece in 40 minutes.
The results were creative all around, but only one team could impress the judges enough to win. Though the competition was close, the winning plate belonged to chefs Powell and McGill. Their efforts were self described as follows: pan-seared and oven-roasted kangaroo loin with a Jack Daniels cream sauce, accompanied by a vegetable ratatouille and sweet potato gnocchi. A side dish of brie soup with strawberry balsamic jam also was served.
The judges had the enviable task of choosing between two culinary pleasures, and though chefs Knapp and Hamilton will not advance, there were high marks for their efforts, described as pan-seared kangaroo loin with bourbon-rosemary butter served atop a brie-sunflower seed potato pancake with braised turnip greens.
All of the people lucky enough to taste the food - the judges plus two winners of a silent auction - deemed both plates superb.
The winning team will go on to compete against last year's champion, the mighty Donnie Ferneau, on June 2 at the Peabody Little Rock ballroom, determining the next Diamond Chef Arkansas champion.