The head chefs from three different ACTS Retirement-Life Communities met on the grounds of Southampton Estates to do battle for the right to move on to the contest’s finals in September.
In an Iron Chef-inspired cook-off, each contestant was given 90 minutes to prepare an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. At every 30 minute interval, a dish would be presented before a panel of three celebrity judges for tasting and critique.
Chef Patrick Kenney of Lima Estates in Media, Sous Chef Luis Lugo of Brittany Pointe Estates in Lansdale, and Chef Frank Fusco of Spring House Estates in Lower Gwynned all seemed stoically determined to represent their communities with the greatest of efforts.
At the end of the contest, only one chef would be left standing, and all of the others would be denied the opportunity to hoist the sweet chef trophy high above the assembled residents, family members, and staff at Southampton Estates.
“This is the ,” said Michael Smith, Director of Public Relations for ACTS. “It’s been a phenomenal success in highlighting the talents of our culinary staffs. Every day we’re serving meals that rival what people would receive at 5 star restaurants.”
Close to 100 residents and their family members bought tickets for the event which packed full the Southampton Estates auditorium. Everyone in attendance was given the same meals as the judges and, at the end of the contest, would vote themselves for the people’s choice winner.
Cameras rolled as the show was caught on video and broadcast on monitors throughout the room so those seated further back could see the action unfold up close.
Florida Regional Director, Jon Addess and ACTS Corporate Director of Culinary and Nutrition Services, Barbara Chappetta, jointly hosted the event, periodically interviewing the chefs about their meals and cuing the judges for their criticisms.
The battle unfolded quickly. The chefs and their staffs scrambled around makeshift kitchens, concocting all sorts of dishes using this episode’s secret ingredient: chocolate.
Which meant using chocolate on everything. Even the mashed potatoes.
The chefs were creative though and crafted some pretty impressive recipes, working around the obvious handicap of mixing a traditional dessert into their appetizers and entrees.
“You have to temper your sweet with your savory,” said Chef Frank Fusco.
The response from the judges was overall positive, with no dish receiving particularly harsh criticism. Residents seemed in agreement with the judges, more than satisfied with the slew of appetizers, main courses, and desserts that came their way.
“I think it’s great,” said Jeanne Roesch, a resident at Southampton Estates for the past nine years. “The food is delicious and [the competition] got a really good turnout.”
Hosts Jon Addess and Barbara Chappetta both agreed - this wasn’t going to be an easy contest for the judges to decide on.
At the end of the ninety minutes, the people’s choices were tallied electronically. Chef Patrick Kenney won the voters over for best appetizer and dessert, stuffed mini pepper Catalan style and chocolate tort with banana jam and caramel cream sauce respectively.
Chef Frank Fusco won the people’s choice for best entrée. His filet medallions in chocolate burgundy wine sauce with white chocolate mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus carried an overwhelming 51% of the audience’s vote in that category.
Still, Fusco’s entrée wasn’t enough to defeat Kenney in the eyes (and mouths) of the judges. Kenney and his crew from Lima Estates were quickly announced the contest’s winners. They would move on to the ACTS Battle For The Best finals, being held in September.
“It feels fantastic,” said Kenney as he walked away from the cameras to mingle with guests.
“I think this just goes to show how much senior dining has evolved,” said Michael Smith. “A lot of these chefs come from upscale restaurants. Food is a big reason people choose to live in a retirement community and this really helps us advertise our amazing chefs.”
The finals will bring together the best chefs from all of ACTS’ retirement communities, which run up the east coast from Florida to Pennsylvania.