The competition was tough inside Idler’s Home on Sept. 23 for the sixth annual Wellness Kitchen Top Chef event. Three batches of secret ingredients were presented to three chefs who prepared an appetizer, main dish and dessert for a panel of three judges! With a bountiful pantry and a gigantic, digital timer nearby, the pressure was on.

Chef Alex Martin, The Wellness Kitchen, Paso Robles

Chef Alex Martin

The results were close. Three-time winner Alex Martin — owner of Crush Catering — edged out two-time winner Adam White and newcomer Clare Cranford. Emcee Chef Phillip Riccomini offered an enjoyable angle to the competition as mentor, educator and retired Director of the Culinary Arts Academy.
“I loved how Chef Phillip engaged with the audience and chefs to keep it so exciting,” said Wellness Kitchen Executive Director Nancy Walker, who also spoke of the mission and future goals of The Wellness Kitchen in Templeton.
Wellness Kitchen volunteers greeted a sold-out crowd who enjoyed local wine, tapas by The Fig Café at Courtney’s House, and music by Wine Country Troubadours in a tent near the entrance leading to Idler’s demonstration kitchen.
The panel of judges included Kevin Kuhn – Senior Vice President of the Aerospace Group for MW Industries; Mike Lane – Chief Operating Officer of Twin Cities Community Hospital; and Lori Foster – Owner of Spice of Life in downtown Paso Robles.
Here’s what the judges had to say about our Top Chefs. Kuhn enjoyed the chef’s “calm demeanor” and “humbleness in speaking about their amazing creations.” He added, “I love the creativity; from flash-frying the sage leaf, creating fish stock from the fish remains, to creating an ice cream as a topping. The chefs were digging deep to impress the audience. The energy of the event was contagious for even the shy attendees. By the end of the night, everyone felt like they attended a high energy concert with ‘5 star’ restaurant foods.”
Lane commented, “Every bite was fantastic! Some bites were just … a bit more fantastic. I needed to slow down and savor the taste. Eating in moderation is extremely difficult when you love every bite! The chef’s creative presentation, use of all ingredients, and appearance was no-doubt extraordinary by anyone’s standard; each of the three dishes in a different way. They were all excellent,” added Lane of his tofu dish; an ingredient he is not usually fond of.
“My eyes feasted on the bowl,” said Lori Foster of Chef Adam’s main dish. “The flavors blended perfectly and warmed my soul. Chef Clare’s dessert was colorful and beautiful. The variety of ingredients and flavors complimented each other perfectly and I enjoyed every bite! All dishes prepared were divine and shows that eating healthy can be an exciting adventure. Pulling rich, colorful and clean ingredients and using creativity to prepare each meal makes every day a celebration.”
The sixth annual Top Chef Competition was a huge success thanks to the host, Idler’s Home, sponsors Coastal Radiation Oncology Medical Group, Twin Cities Community Hospital, Rancho Azul y Oro, Pacific Premier Bank and many in-kind donors and wineries.
The next goal of The Wellness Kitchen is to open additional facilities and expand the meal, broth and education programs to those suffering from cancer and other life-altering illness. Everyone has a story about cancer or serious illness that has touched family, friends and our community.
For information on the Wellness Foods & the “Pay It Forward” Healing Foods meal programs, classes and other resources, go to Donations are greatly appreciated.