While in Augusta, Ga., top golfers vied for a green jacket, on Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Vidalia, Ga., twelve lead chefs from across the state competed for the Golden Onion trophy during the 2nd annual Golden Onion professional cooking competition
The Golden Onion, the official kick-off to the 36th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival
, offers a platform for competitors to display their skills and creativity, as each chef has just one hour to prepare and present a recipe featuring Vidalia® onions, Georgia’s official state vegetable.
From the mountains to the islands, fine dining to casual eateries, new business ventures to long-standing community mainstays, the roster of 12 chef competitors represented a cross-section of Georgia restaurants and cuisine. But only one could take home the Golden Onion.
Top honors were awarded to Chef Daniel Chance, executive chef of Campagnolo Restaurant + Bar in Atlanta, Ga., for his recipe “Scallop Stuffed Vidalia with Onion Purée.”
An Atlanta native, Chef Chance enjoys using fresh produce from local farms and even spent a summer as a commercial salmon fisherman learning a lot about fish. Shortly after being handed the trophy, he said, “I am humbled and flattered, but most of all honored. My dish really captures the essence of my cooking style. I used the onion in four different ways and paired it with scallops, which complements the characteristics of the Vidalia onion, but still can be cooked quickly. I plan to put a variation of this dish on my menu in the future.”
Second place winner Chef Brian Justice, chef and owner of Tasteful Temptations Café in Brunswick, prepared “Vidalia® Onion Poppers,” stuffed with wild Georgia shrimp, sautéed Vidalia® onions and jalapeño peppers, and Monterey jack cheese; and served with Vidalia® onions and tomato jam, roasted corn and Vidalia corn foam and garnished with chive oil and charred corn.
Chef Justice said, “Everybody put up a dish that no one had seen before. We feel pretty good with second place; we hope to come back next year and do even better.”
Third place winner Chef Roberto Leoci, chef and owner of Leoci’s Trattoria in Savannah, Ga., prepared “Pancetta Wrapped Vidalia® Onion,” stuffed with Georgia peach risotto and finished with spiced candied pecans.
He says, “I entered Golden Onion especially because Vidalia onions are Georgia Grown. It was such a great experience and I’d definitely do it again, there was such a sense of comradeship. Best onion of the world! We at Leoci's are proud!”
“To have this much talent come into our area and compete using our Vidalia onions as the main ingredient in their dishes is very good for our community and for our industry,” said Bob Stafford, director of the Vidalia® Onion Business Council and Vidalia® Onion Hall of Fame inductee.
“I loved the cross section of chefs from all over the state,” said event judge Holly Chute, executive chef of the Georgia Governor’s Mansion. “I thought their takes on highlighting the Vidalia onion were terrific. I think the Golden Onion has established itself as a serious cooking competition and will continue to attract a high level of chef competitors.”
“I was impressed with the competitors’ dishes and the great application of cooking techniques and creativity applied to Vidalia onions,” said event judge Chef Hilary White, owner and executive chef of The Hil: A Restaurant at Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., who won top honors at the inaugural Golden Onion last year. “Some really ‘build’ elaborate kitchens and some are very minimalistic. A reflection of the kitchen where they are from or perhaps the dish they are creating. The winning dish was well-executed and utilized all the onion had to offer. The level of competition was friendly. The winners of the competition brought their A game.”
Dishes were judged on the basis of taste (50%), oral presentation (5%), visual presentation (10%), creativity (15%), overall use of Vidalia® onions (15%), and following the recipe submitted during the application process (5%).
As First Place Champion, Chef Daniel Chance was awarded the Golden Onion trophy, an exclusive honor to hold for one year. The trophy, designed and produced by Georgia artist Melissa Harris in 2012, must be surrendered the following year to the next winner. Chef White also received a cash prize of $500. As second place winner Chef Brian Justice received $250; third place winner Chef Roberto Leoci received $100. All winners will also receive commemorative plaques.
The Golden Onion competition was presented by the Vidalia Onion Festival Committee in cooperation with the Vidalia® Onion Committee and the Georgia Restaurant Association.