Jon Bonnell, our head judge and owner of Bonnell's Fine Texas Cuisine, put our four Top Chef contestants through some intense preliminary challenges at the Top Chef Challenge at River Ranch Stockyards, July 13, including cleaning, skinning and deboning a fish to his exact specifications. He called another exercise the “thinking on your feet” challenge. It forced the chefs to choose a brown bag filled with random ingredients to be combined in a dish in nine minutes flat. Just when the chefs had an idea of how to use their assortment… Bonnell forced them to quickly switch ingredients before starting his clock, in front of a sold-out crowd of 430.
WATCH THE RE-CAP VIDEO HERE:
The four chefs were Jenna Kinard, executive chef of MAX's Wine Dive, Juan Rodriguez, chef/owner of Magdalena's, Jason Harper, chef/owner of Trio New American Cafe in Colleyville, and Derek Venutolo, executive chef partner of The Capital Grille.
Our judges for the evening, who were all past winners of Top Chef, included Ben Merritt of Fixture - Kitchen and Social Lounge, Anthony Felli of Waters Coastal Cuisine and Blaine Staniford of Grace. Scott Murray, former Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and television sports anchor, emceed the event.
The main challenge only allotted the contestants 25 minutes to prepare and plate two identical entrées — one for the judges to sample and score, and another which was auctioned off to lucky members in the crowd. Bonnell announced two proteins each chef was required to incorporate in his or her dish — a whole rabbit and a live lobster.
But there could only be one winner of Top Chef 2017. That title went to Derek Venutolo of The Capital Grille. His creation was a rabbit quarter, which was braised and finished in the oven, served with a wild mushroom couscous. The rabbit was paired with fresh lobster tail and claw meat in a lobster beurre blanc sauce, along with sautéed spinach and chard.
(Pictured above: Jenna Kinard winning the People's Choice Award)
Read more about each of the Top Chef contestants and the journey into their culinary careers in the August issue of Fort Worth Magazine.
(Pictured above: Derek Venutolo winning the overall competition)
Watch the video of our competing chefs:
All food leftovers were donated to Presbyterian Night Shelter. Thank you to all the sponsors that made Top Chef 2017 a smashing success: Ace Mart Restaurant Supply, Fresh Point, Texas Appliance, Teresa's Event Staffing and Bartending, Rent-A-Frog Valet, and River Ranch Stockyards.