Oven Mitts Come Off For Chefs Competition

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In the category of Best Dessert, the first-place winner of Payson's annual Mayor's Cup Chefs Competition is ... the envelope, please ... Macky's Grill for its "Coconut and Butterscotch Ranch House Pies."

And in the category of Best Appetizer, the top prize goes to ... a napkin, please ... The Creekside Steak House & Tavern's "Kuku Wraps."

Oh, the excitement. Oh, the thrills. Oh, the food that was available for mass consumption at the chef's competition, sponsored Saturday night by the Library Friends of Payson at the Tonto Apache gymnasium.

"I truly felt it was one of our best competitions," Library Friends President Judy Buettner said. "We didn't have quite as many people as we had last time but last time, I think we had too many. Last year we had about 460 or 470; it was too crowded, but it was hard to turn people away. This time we had 415 plus the chefs, so it was a little more manageable."

Although the contest, which normally sends winners to a statewide competition in Scottsdale, was scaled down this year because the City of Scottsdale canceled its competition, that had no effect on anyone's enjoyment, Buettner said.

"Actually, that made this year's competition even better, because we didn't have to follow anyone else's rules. We could do what we wanted and weren't limited by the appetizers-only rule. So the first thing we did was add the desserts which was a wonderful idea, as anyone who was there would tell you."

Rim country restaurateurs and caterers who competed last year were given first rights to enter one or more desserts and/or an appetizer.

This year, participating food professionals included the Black Bear Restaurant and Lounge (in the appetizer category), Macky's Grill (dessert), the Zane Grey Dining Room at Kohl's Ranch (appetizer and dessert), the Cedar Ridge Restaurant (appetizer), I.T. Catering (dessert), Randall House (dessert), the Creekside Steakhouse (appetizer), and caterer Susan Bayer-Johnson of My Thyme is Yours (appetizer).

Two restaurants that were expected to compete did not, Buettner said with a palpable air of disappointment.

"Mario's had to cancel out because somebody scheduled them for a big NRA banquet unbeknownst to (owner) Dave Conti," Buettner said, "and while the chefs from the Christopher Creek Landmark Restaurant had been expected to participate, they did not. "

But there's always next February's foodstuffs race, of course ... "And we're already planning that one," Buettner said.

Interested restaurant and catering professionals can enter the contest early by calling Buettner at 472-9015.

Winners' circle

Winners in the dessert category

1. Macky's Grill for Coconut Ranch House Pie and Butterscotch Ranch House Pie, created by baker James Monroe.

2. The Randall House for its variety of tarts created by chef Barbara O'Connor.

3. Zane Grey Dining Room at Kohl's Ranch, for a chocolate creme-filled tart created by chef Chris Smith.

Winners in the appetizer category

1. Creekside Steakhouse and Tavern's Kuku Wraps, chicken combined with mushrooms, onions, jalapenos and other spicy goodies mixed by chefs James Collins, Anthony Acuna and Robert McWorthy

2. Black Bear Restaurant and Lounge, for "Bayou Bebe's," a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and topped with a "tingly" bayou sauce created by chef Diane Skinner

3. Cedar Ridge Restaurant for an appetizer created by chef Rick DePhilippis.

Winner of best table presentation

Zane Grey Dining Room at Kohl's Ranch

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