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Sacramento Chef Challenge set to take place June 23

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The  annual Sacramento Chef Challenge is set to take place on June 23 and will be equal parts competition, culinary skill and for the first time, audience participation.

The highlight of the evening will be two on-site competitions: the three-course Chef Challenge in which attendees can help decide whose cuisine reigns supreme and the Cake War.

According to event organizer Jessica Bean, this is the first year in which guests, rather than a panel of judges, will be allowed to eat and vote on the Chef Challenge delicacies.  

“I always hated the prom queen popularity contest idea, and I wanted to balance things out with guest votes,” Bean said. “In the past, we’ve had six or seven chefs cook for 45 minutes on stage, and this year we only have three, and we’re giving them three hours.”

Come hungry: Guests will also be able to sample from more than 100 different restaurants, wineries and breweries, listen to live music from classic rock bands and partake in a silent auction and a raffle.

The money raised goes to the organization hosting the event, Inalliance, which supports the independence and health of people with developmental disabilities.

Professional chefs Kristela Nazario-Mendoza, Keith Erickson and Philippe Cailottt will be utilizing this year’s key ingredients — Pacific steelhead, Beeler’s pork, and ginger to whip up their original dishes.

The chefs will be in plain sight and available for conversation from the minute they begin working. Bean acknowledged that due to this year’s setup, the event will be geared more toward mingling instead of watching a performance.

Part of the judging criteria takes into account a chef’s personality and theatrics, so guests will be encouraged to mingle and engage with the cooks. Other criteria includes taste and quality, originality, connection to theme and overall presentation.

The same criteria will be used to determine the winner of the Cake War, the cupcake challenge presented by www.cakegrrl.com that will feature five people: two professional challengers, Carlos Mares and Monique Cortes, and three amateur challengers, Jennifer Urias, Kyle Lane and Stephanie Nuccitelli. All cupcakes will be baked off-site and will be frosted and creatively displayed for the competition.

The winner will be decided by an equal combination of guest input and two local culinary experts, Kristy DeVaney and Melissa Johnson.

“It’s really great to allow amateurs to compete against professionals,” said DeVaney of www.cakegrrl.com. “If they’re on the cusp of starting their own business, they can get their name out there, and it’s all for a good cause.”

The cupcake must be an original recipe, utilize any form of ginger, and, like the Chef Challenge, somehow embody the “Hot Summer Nights” theme.

“Im excited to see what people come up with,” said Nuccitelli, who blogs at www.52kitchenadventures.com and is an Agency M Employee. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking to go up against the professionals, but there are lots of ways to interpret the theme and many ways to use (ginger).”

Tickets can be purchased for $25 in advance or $35 at the door and include vendor sampling and five beer and wine samples (each additional taste will be $1). The event will take place from 4 – 9 p.m. at the Inalliance Sacramento campus located at 6950 21st Ave. 

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