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Crazy Cook-Off at the Gilford library a sweet surprise for all

Corey Nazer takes a bite as one of the judges for the “First Annual Crazy Cook-Off” hosted at the Gilford Public Library. Danielle DeLisle. (click for larger version)
July 15, 2009
It wasn't Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck or Julia Childs cooking up a storm at the Gilford Public Library, but those gathered at the first annual Crazy Cook-Off still wore their chef hats and dug in.

"I was a little early and looking at the ingredients," said Patrick McKenna, one of the contestants. "I knew we couldn't cook much, so a salad seemed to fit."

The meeting room at the library became a culinary battle ground last week for five teams of teenagers scrambling to out cook the others. Teams were given an assortment of items on their table. Each team had the same items and the same amount as everyone else to start with. Kiwis, strawberries, pineapple, chocolate, marshmallows, wafer cookies and more were provided along with plates, sticks and cutting utensils.

"You don't have to use all of each item," said Corey Nazer, the emcee and one of the judges for the event, "but you do have to use some of all the items."

As a final surprise each team got a paper bag containing a secret ingredient and cooking tool that they had to use with their dish. Once the chefs were prepared the clock was counted down and the race began. Twenty minutes passed while the teams consulted, cut, plated and tasted the dishes they were hoping would win them a prize. As they worked they carefully wrote down the recipe for their dish.

"It was about what we expected," said Jean Clarke, one of the judges, smiling. "Controlled chaos."

Time was called and all the chefs had to step away from their tables and put down their knives. Each team was called forward one by one to announce the name of their dish and their team name. Clarke and Nazer tasted each dish and gave the chefs comments before deliberating on which team would win the prize.

"I've watched Food Network before," said Dawson Ellis, 10, of the Red Sox team, "then I saw Emeril pull a fish out of nowhere and that didn't help me very much."

Alexa Dembriec said she liked experimenting by putting two different foods together in new ways. Ellis added that he liked the "anything goes" attitude of the event and noted that the only limit was their imagination.

"It was a lot harder than I expected," said Dembriec, "but it was fun."

There were kabobs, men made out of fruit, desserts, salads and mini filled cookie sandwiches. Clarke said she was pleased to see that each team was really focused on their dish and went out of their way to make it look good for presentation.

"It almost looks too good to eat," said Clarke of team Bright Two and their "Volcano of Sweetness" dish. "Almost."

The Red Sox team won the prize for "Best Use of Fruit" for their "Semi-Healthy Fruit Salad" recipe. The LSP won the "Best Teamwork" award for their "Chocolate Surprise" creation. The "Volcano of Sweetness" won the Bright Two team the "Best Appearance" award. The Fantastic Four team won the "Most Creative" award for their "Man Made of Fruit" dish. The "Crunchy Fruit-Ka-Bobs" won the Iron Teens team the "Best Taste" prize.

The winning teams received prize bags with small toys in them to take home. The recipes will be on display at the library for any patrons curious on how to make a "Volcano of Sweetness" or a "Semi-Healthy Fruit Salad" for their next gathering.

"They did things that I never would have thought of," said Clarke. "They all did a really good job and it went really well."

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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