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11th Annual Ashland Culinary Provided Weekend of Excitement

A weekend of excitement at the four-day 11th annual Ashland Culinary Festival including a sold-out Top Chef Dinner, NEW Celebrity Quick-Fire Cooking Challenge, the 2nd annual Mixology Competition, 2nd annual Junior Chef Competition, and of course, the popular Top Chef Competition November 2nd – 5th, 2017

This past weekend over 1500 visitors and locals enjoyed this destination culinary event produced by Travel Ashland. The 11th annual Ashland Culinary Festival welcomed more attendees and delicious vendors than any other year in its history. Throughout the weekend there were sold out hands-on culinary workshops, local samplings from food artisans and award-winning wineries and breweries and the weekend's center point was the Top Chef Competition where12 local chefs competed for 2017 Top Chef title.
 
The festival began with a SOLD-OUT 2017 Ultimate Top Chef Dinner on Thursday evening which showcased six past Top Chefs winners from previous years, each preparing a signature course paired with a local winery. Participants included Neil Clooney of Smithfields Restaurant & Bar - Top Chef 2007 & 2008, Franco Console of Larks Restaurant - Top Chef 2009, David Georgeson of Common Block Brewing Co. - Top Chef 2011 (pre-dinner appetizer), Billy Buscher of Seven Feathers Casino Resort - Top Chef 2012, James Williams of Truffle Pig Craft Kitchen - Top Chef 2014 and Josh Dorcak of MÄS - Top Chef 2015 and 2016). Chef Clooney, Console, Buscher, Williams and Dorcak have either won or placed as a finalist at the Oregon Iron Chef Competition. Top Mixologist 2016, Blake Henry of Brickroom, offered a pre-dinner cocktail sample and there was a wonderful selection of Organic Rogue Creamery Artisan Cheeses with Accoutrements.
 
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 2017 Celebrity Quick-Fire Cooking Challenge Winners – Chef John Ash and Dennis Slattery – Photo by Graham Lewis, Courtesy of the Ashland Culinary Festival

Friday evening was exciting as the Festival welcomed the Judges to the Stage for a NEW Celebrity Quick-Fire Cooking Challenge.  They were challenged to make the best Grilled Cheese Sandwich they could make in 15 minutes on stage with their partners.  Teams included: Judge and Emcee, Cory Schreiber & Rolar Yondorf from Porters Restaurant (also a former Festival Judge), Judge, Fabiola Donnelly & Chef Kate Cyr from the Neuman Hotel Group (Festival Committee Member), Judge, Chef John Ash & Dennis Slattery, Ashland City Councilor and SOU Professor (also a former Festival Emcee) and Top Chef 2007 & 2008, Neil Clooney of Smithfields & Trish Glose from KTVL Channel 10. The winning Grilled Cheese was awarded to Chef John Ash & Dennis Slattery, our 2017 Celebrity Quick-Fire Cooking Challenge winners. 
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2017 Top Mixologist Competition: Freddie Herrera of Hearsay Restaurant, Lounge and Garden (First Place), Jess Jeffery of Alchemy Restaurant & Bar (Third Place) and Ross Jones of Larks Restaurant (Second Place) – Photo by Graham Lewis, Courtesy of the Ashland Culinary Festival

Friday evening also included our 2nd annual Mixology Competition, where eight local bartenders competed for the 2017 Top Mixologist honor.  First Place went to Freddie Herrera of Hearsay Restaurant, Lounge and Garden, second place was Ross Jones of Larks Restaurant and 3rd place was awarded to Jess Jeffery of Alchemy Restaurant & Bar. The key secret ingredient was local huckleberries.
 
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2017 Junior Chef Winning Team: Coy Wimberly (left) and Dezmond Barros (right), Seniors from North Medford High School – Photo by Graham Lewis, Courtesy of the Ashland Culinary Festival
  
On Saturday, the Festival was honored to hold the 2nd annual Junior Chef Competition, the first of its kind in Southern Oregon. A two-person Chef Team competed from Ashland High School (two teams), North Medford High School and Grants Pass High School, four teams total. Due to illness, the South Medford High School Team was unable to compete at the last minute and Ashland High School provided a second team. Junior Chefs were given secret ingredients and a challenge to complete much like the Top Chef Competition. Dezmond Barros and Coy Wimberly, Seniors from North Medford High School, won the 2017 Junior Chef title.  With winning, they were given the chance to shadow the Judges for the Chef Competition for the remainder of the weekend as well as receiving a scholarship which audience members contributed to by biding on auction items.  In addition, local businesses contributed by donating to the scholarship fund and there was also a large anonymous donation made which allowed all competing students to win a college scholarship as well as the winning School to receive a $1200 donation to their Culinary Program. The Junior Chef Competition is one of the highlights of this Festival and is a must-see event.


The weekend continued with the Top Chef Competition and over 35 vendors to sample each day. 

The Top Chef Competition results were as follows:

Round one winner: Josh Dorcak of MÄS received the highest score for round one with the secret ingredients of Crab and Shrimp, requiring Chefs to prepare both a soup and sandwich. Chef Dorcak brought along his 8-year-old Son, Caswell, to compete with him for the weekend as his Sous Chef.  This was an audience favorite to watch!
 
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3rd Place Finalist: Chef Josh Dorcak of MÄS with his 8-year-old Son, Caswell, who competed with him for the weekend as his Sous Chef – Photo by Graham Lewis, Courtesy of the Ashland Culinary Festival
  
Round two winner: Skye Elder of Brickroom received the highest score for round two with the secret ingredient of Turkey Breast, requiring Chefs to prepare an entrée.
 
Round three winner: Stefano Cipollone of Standing Stone Brewing Co. received the highest score for round three with the secret ingredient of Tawanda Farms Lamb and Chanterelles, requiring Chefs to prepare an entrée.+
Fianalists
Top Chef Finalists: Jesse Denney and Stefano Cipollone (Standing Stone Brewing Co.), Skye Elder and Jeremy Gianino (Brickroom), Josh Dorcak and Caswell Dorcak (MÄS) and Brent Herud and Oscar Alvarado (Larks Restaurant) – Photo by Graham Lewis, Courtesy of the Ashland Culinary Festival

These three Chefs advanced to the final round along with Brent Herud of Larks Restaurant who earned the fourth slot in the final as the Judge’s Choice WILD CARD Chef. 

In the final round, Skye Elder of Brickroom earned the most points with his execution of Wild Coho Salmon Two Ways, on one plate – the secret ingredient and challenge for the final round. Chef Elder’s plate included Coriander Seared Coho with Coconut Jasmine Rice and a Wasabi Caramel Lomi Lomi Salmon and Radish Napoleon. With this win, Chef Elder earned his first Top Chef award from the Ashland Culinary Festival.  Photo to right caption: Top Chef 2017 Winner: Skye Elder of Brickroom Restaurant with his Sous Chef, Jeremy Gianino – Photo by Graham Lewis, Courtesy of the Ashland Culinary Festival
 
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First and Second Place Winners – 2017 Top Chef Competition: Skye Elder of Brickroom celebrating with Brent Herud of Larks Restaurant – Photo by Graham Lewis, Courtesy of the Ashland Culinary Festival

​2nd place - Brent Herud of Larks Restaurant

3rd place - Josh Dorcak of MÄS

4th place - Stefano Cipollone of Standing Stone Brewing Co.
The Ashland Emergency Food Bank received many donations by event goers who received a discount on their ticket by donating two non-perishable food items. Join us next year for the 12th annual Ashland Culinary Festival, November 8th – 11th, 2018 at the Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites. To see photos and videos from the event, visit our Ashland Culinary Festival pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
 
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Chef Elder’s Winning Plate in the final minutes of the Competition: Coriander Seared Coho with Coconut Jasmine Rice and a Wasabi Caramel Lomi Lomi Salmon and Radish Napoleon – Photo by Graham Lewis, Courtesy of the Ashland Culinary Festival
 


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