Adrian Prud Homme Delodder has some advice for chefs trying to beat him in The Orpheum Theatre’s Celebrity & Chef Cookoff:
Be prepared—to improvise.
That’s what Delodder found himself doing on the way to winning last year’s cookoff, which pairs local chefs and celebrities in a Iron Chef-style competition. Held on the floor of INTRUST Bank Arena for the second year (after outgrowing its old home), the event also includes sampling tables from 20 different restaurants and purveyors, free-flowing beverages, live and silent auctions and more.
“Pretty much you’ve got to just go in there and give it your all,” said Delodder, chef at Bella Vita Bistro.
Meanwhile, a rumored rivalry among some of the celebrity contestants is spicing up the cookoff.
“Somebody said the other guy couldn’t cook,” Orpheum president Jennifer Allen said, declining to say just who had thrown down the culinary gauntlet.
One of the celebrity participants, developer Gary Oborny Occidental Management), said he didn’t recall making that statement, but believes his interest in good food and wine might give him an edge. Among other things, Oborny owns Auburn Spirits.
“Yeah, I’ll take ‘em all on,” Oborny said with a laugh. “It’s all fun.”
Oborny might not have counted on one fellow celebrity participant, Scott Redler, co-founder and chief operating officer at Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers. A crack home cook, Redler also develops and tests recipes for the chain.
And, to make things even more interesting, new Mayor Jeff Longwell has agreed to fill the last celebrity spot. Whether Longwell’s 60-percent win at the polls makes him a favorite of judges remains to be seen.
The cookoff is the theater’s biggest fundraiser of the year, with the money going to artistic, educational and youth programming at the theater.
Eight pairs of chef and celebrities will compete in the timed event. New chefs this year are Paul Guererro (Firebirds), John Conklin (Rocco’s), Jeremy Pacacha (Eurest) and Jason Fisher (Cafe 402). They’ll join Delodder, Ben George (INTRUST Bank Arena), Jim McNulty (Kansas Star Casino) and Paul Freimuth (Hyatt) as the expert half of each pair.
The celebrities are Longwell, Oborny, Redler, Barbara Baan (KSN), Coleen Jennison (Cox Communications), Adam Mills (Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association), Dan Ihm (VP and General Manager of Kansas Star Casino) and Jon Rosell (Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, Medical Society of Sedgwick County). Judging the cookoff are Denise Neil, The Wichita Eagle’s restaurant reviewer, plus local restaurateurs Bobby Lane (Chester’s), Jason-Paul Febres (Taste & See) and Tanya Tandoc (Tanya’s Soup Kitchen). Murfin Inc. is the presenting sponsor.
Delodder said he left a pre-cookoff meeting with organizers last year with several ideas of what he might make, based on the ingredients he believed would be available. But on the of the competition, “a lot of the stuff I planned on wasn’t there. I had to use my brain a little bit.”
His winning five-course menu included a sparkling pineapple cocktail, pasta carbonara topped with a poached egg, seared lamb with mushroom risotto and bananas Foster. He managed to work a bit of the mystery ingredient—wasabi—into every dish. Delodder said he used his celebrity teammate, car dealer Sean Tarbell, “on everything,” and Tarbell did great. “I wanted him to experience what we do in the kitchen all the time—the fast pace.”
All of the celebrity-chef meals are auctioned off, along with trips, services, gifts and other items. Participating restaurants pull out all the stops at the event’s tasting tables.
As Orpheum president Jennifer Allen said: “No other event in town gives you so much food, fun and entertainment.”