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Fun for Foodies: Local ingredients figure prominently in 2012 Top Chef competition 

The Top Chef competition is promising to be a grueling challenge for this year's competitors.

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If you have an appetite for all things culinary, then this weekend is sure to satisfy. The Bite of Bend is Central Oregon’s food lovers’ festival and it is celebrating its tenth anniversary on June 23-24. Offering a veritable plethora of gastronomic delights, this year’s event will focus on the bounty we have around us like never before.

Among the activities included in this year’s festival are the Top Chef competition, the third annual 5K Beer Run, the Bartenders’ Brawl, food and wine booths, a beer garden, live music on the performance stage, a children’s play area and more.

Even though there are so many activities going on during the weekend, the crowd favorite has to be the Top Chef Competition. Bringing together eight of the finest local chefs in the area, and letting them battle it out based on their use of a “secret ingredient,” the competition always has its share of excitement. This year’s battle is certain to be no exception.

(Full disclosure: I am a former Top Chef competitor and will MC portions of the contest this weekend. )

Incorporating a new, more defined focus on products from Central Oregon and emphasizing the farm-to-table approach, many local foods will share center stage. Organizers felt that the time was ripe to build the Top Chef Competition around ingredients from this region and partnered with Locavore, an online marketplace for Central Oregon food products, to bring in most of the ingredients.

Two full kitchens have been set up for the battle royale at the corner of Oregon Avenue and Bond Street. Chefs will be presented with a mystery ingredient and a table full of locally grown produce and dairy products with which to prepare two killer dishes in one hour’s time.

It will be a grueling weekend for the chefs as winners from each head-to-head round move on to the next one-hour cook-off. The round robin format will eventually yield two competitors in the final round.

The dishes will be judged by local chefs and foodies. The winner of the competition will take home a large “trophy” in the form of a pottery piece created by Bend potter John Kinder, a cash prize of a few hundred dollars and bragging rights. It will certainly be exciting and we should expect quite a few surprises.

The Contenders

The competition begins at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and will be a full two days of intense competition between some of the areas most innovative chefs. The competitors in this year’s Top Chef competition are chefs from 5 Fusion, Tetherow Grill, Mt. Bachelor, Old Mill Brew Works, Pine Tavern, Chow, 10 Barrel Brewing Company and Jackson’s Corner. Each chef brings his or her  own style and cooking background to the battle, and it is this writer’s opinion that we may not have ever seen a more evenly matched group in this competition.



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