The final heat in the second annual “King of the Mountain Chefs Challenge” featured the same finalists as last year’s event—but with a different outcome. This year’s grand prize winner was Chef Johannes Klapdohr, executive chef at Old Edwards Inn & Spa.
The three-heat event was held before a live audience last Saturday afternoon and evening at Cyprus Restaurant and was modeled after the Food Network’s television show, “Iron Chef.”
The two preliminary heats took place in the afternoon. They differed from the Food Network’s show where the chefs have 45 minutes to think about and plan their creations prior to the event. In the Highlands version, the chefs had 45 minutes from the time the ingredients were unveiled until they delivered the finished product.
In the first heat, Chef Johannes defeated Chef Jonathan Reid, executive chef of Gamekeeper’s Tavern. Klapdohr created a full five-courses featuring flank steak and several other ingredients. Judges were impressed with “originality and focus on distinct flavors.”
In the second heat, Chef Nick Figel of Cyprus restaurant and last year’s winner, began defending his title by defeating Chef Mitch Sheppard of Ruka’s Table. Figel created three courses featuring pork tenderloin and Brussels sprouts. Judges termed this heat’s winning entry, “exquisite, masterly prepared and a culinary delight.”
In the final heat, held Saturday night, Chef Klapdohr out-dueled Chef Figel with dishes featuring scallops and shitake mushrooms. Of the meal prepared by the newly-crowned champion, judges said, “Such an exceptional meal in this short a time is an unbelievable culinary achievement of which we have never seen before.”
Klapdohr not only carries the title “King of the Mountain,” for the next 12 months, he is the proud owner of “Sam’s Cup,” awarded to the winner. Judges for the event were:
• Shelly Skiles Sawyer, managing food editor, Flavors Magazine.
• Chef Hugh Acheson, owner and executive chef, Five & Ten Restaurant in Athens, Ga.
• Chef Daniel Lindley, St. John’s Restaurant, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Chef Wolfgang Green, owner of Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro, selected the mystery ingredients for each heat.
The chefs performed in front of a sold-out crowd. Each member of the audience paid $118 to be there ($159.00 for VIP counter seats) plus taxes and gratuities. In addition to hors d’oeuvres provided by the chefs during the heats, they were all treated to a four-course dinner prepared by all participating chefs.
Chef Klapdohr will defend his title at the 2012 King of the Mountain chefs Challenge on April 14, 2012 in Highlands. One competitor scheduled to challenge at that event will be James Beard Foundation Award finalist Chef John Fleer of Canyon Kitchen in Lonesome Valley.
Event host, co-creator and “Sam’s Cup” sponsor, Matthew Eberz, of Sam Call Productions, said, “Watching these chefs battle each other and create these stunning dishes was exhilarating. I was amazed at the audience engagement and excitement throughout all rounds of the competition. And just when you thought the event couldn’t get any better, the talented chefs provided a four-course meal that rocked your taste buds. I’m in awe of the culinary talent that we have on the Highlands-Cashiers plateau.”