Appetizer Contest Among Local Chefs Proving Popular

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Tickets are selling like hotcakes for the Mayor's Cup Chefs Appetizers Competition Saturday -- so much so that organizers will be putting a freeze on ticket sales.

"Response from the community has been overwhelming and we're very happy with the ticket sales. A limited amount of tickets are left," Library Friends President Judy Buettner said.

Buettner said the few remaining tickets, which cost $15, will be sold at the Rim Country Chamber of Commerce through the end of the week. She said no tickets will be sold at the door.

"The chefs have got to have a count so they can order their food," she said. "We're almost at our limit. Sales will stop at 350 tickets."

Ten area restaurants will be showcasing their skills, but Michael's at the Inn will not be among them.

Owner Michael Barnhardt, who had planned to participate, announced recently that he is leaving Payson for his other business, Barney's in Scottsdale.

Barnhardt was selected by Mayor Vern Stiffler to represent Payson in the 1998 Mayor's Cup Competition in Scottsdale. It was the first time Payson was represented in the contest.

This year, the choice will be made by those attending Saturday's fund-raiser, which is being sponsored by the Library Friends and the Payson Roundup. Each ticket-holder will receive a ballot and the winner will be announced after 7 p.m., when the competition concludes at the Tonto Apache Reservation gym.

Area florists are donating plants and floral arrangements for the event. The Payson Fine Arts Guild is providing an art show, and keyboardist Cindy Maken will be the featured entertainer.

Festivities begin at 5 p.m. with wine tasting provided by United Beverages, a silent auction of a fine art print of elk in the Rim country donated by Founder's Bank, a raffle of a few select chef- and food-related items donated by area businesses, and -- the main event -- the tasting of the offerings of the area's finest restaurants.

Among the competitors are Bandana Annie's, Black Bear, Cedar Ridge Restaurant, Chaparral Pines, I.T. Caterers, Macky's Grill, the Oaks, the Randall House, the Small Cafe, and Zane Grey Dining Room at Kohl's Ranch.

"The business owners and chefs are very excited about the opportunity to showcase their skills," Buettner said.

The chefs will be featured Thursday at 9 a.m. on the "Rim Country Forum" on KMOG Radio.

Buettner said the chefs are keeping their appetizers a secret until the event Saturday, and have said they're looking forward to the friendly competition and the chance to represent Payson in Scottsdale.

The winner will receive a plaque and $250 from the Town of Payson toward expenses for the trip to Scottsdale to compete in the Mayors' Cup Chefs Appetizer Competition April 16.

The competition is a part of the week-long Scottsdale Arts and Culinary Festival.

The Payson event will benefit the Library Friends Building Fund. The Library Friends have raised $170,000 toward their goal of $250,000.

Additional donations may be sent to the Library Friends of Payson, P.O. Box 13, Payson, AZ 85547.

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