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Area food fanatics get a Taste of the Common Man

Judges for the Iron Chef competition pose with Common Man Family CEO Jason Lyon (center) before the Taste of the Common Man event held on May 1. (Ashley Finethy) (click for larger version)
May 09, 2012
PLYMOUTH—There was not an empty stomach in the room at this year's "Taste of the Common Man" event last week, where all Common Man Family restaurants from around the state gathered together to serve up a specialty to hundreds of people, all to benefit the Circle Program.

"We came up with Taste of the Common Man because we are diverse in what we offer statewide," said CEO of the Common Man Family of Restaurants Jason Lyon. "We can fill the room with our different concepts, different flavors and different menus to give folks a sample of what we do across the state."

Not only were all of the Common Man Family Restaurants represented at the event, but attendees were also able to sample the Common Man's beer and wine.

"We have our Common Man Ale brewed by Smuttynose Brewery here tonight, as well as Common Man Wine, which is done for use by Round Tail and Ruthingford Vineyards in Napa Valley," said Lyon.

As if the food wasn't enough, Taste of the Common Man also hosted its annual Iron Chef competition, featuring volunteer chefs from a Common Man Family Restaurant.

"We have some great food going on in both rooms, but we needed something to capture the attention of the audience for two or three hours while they're here, so that's where we thought we could have a little fun and mimic Top Chef and Iron Chef, and have our own chef's competition with our own extremely talented chefs," said Lyon.

The competition had a panel of experienced foodies, including "The Chef's Plate" T.V. personalities Helen Ryba and Scott Franz, editor of New Hampshire Magazine's Food section Susan Laughlin, and Scott Whitney.

"Every year, they put a new twist to it," said Whitney. "Last year, it was a team of four, and they had to clue what they were preparing, so they would start something and it was like a tag team. When one person's time was up, the next person came in and had to figure out what was cooking, then add to it and put it all together."

Though the chef competition is judged and there has to be a winner, Whitney insists that it's more about fun, and less about the competition.

"I have been doing this for four or five years now," said Whitney. "I know what to look for, but it's more about having fun and watching these guys work because they're really masters at it, and they make it look really easy."

This year's two teams — Chef Tommy Faba of Lago and Chef Paul Hill of the Common Man Merrimack facing off against Chef Tom from the Common Man Lincoln and Common Man Express Manager Diane Drenkhahn — competed in the chef competition, with this year's twist being unlikely secret ingredients for both the appetizer and main dish.

Chef Faba and Chef Hill won this year's chef competition with their creative and innovative use of ingredients to create tasty dishes that pleased the judges.

With plenty of food to go around, what would a good meal be without dessert, which was provided by Plymouth State University's Organizational Behavior students involved in the Common Man Family's Apprentice Competition.

"These students actually have backgrounds in marketing, business, business management, finance, and we take these skills and put them to use all at the same time, as opposed to focusing on individual facets," said Lyon.

Apprentice competition students were in charge of researching the Common Man Family's demographic and creating a unique ice cream flavor to be served at The Taste of the Common Man.

"They come up with their ice cream and come up with their data," said Lyon. "They have a real life learning session where they present their stuff board room style, a formal business presentation and proposal to a panel of judges, and then that is followed by a tasting event featuring all 14 flavors of ice cream."

At The Taste of the Common Man, individuals were able to sample all 14 flavors of ice cream and vote for their favorite.

"You come through and get to taste the ice creams, and at the end, we have an overall winner," said Lyon. "The overall winner is the group who has done the best overall between their formal presentation, written presentation, as well as their ice cream."

This year, the winning team was Team Medley with their Passion-Ate Melon flavored sherbet made up of cucumbers, Honeydew melon and Passion Fruit juice. First runner up was team Temptations with their Coconut Mocha Mud Pie ice cream and the second runner up was team Keep it Current with a black mint breeze ice cream.

This year's fan favorite was from team Tiramisu Crew, with their ice cream called A Toast to Tiramisu.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
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