The challenge, in its sixth year at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, raised more than $23,000 for the Community Kitchen of Monroe County in an “Iron Chef”-style showdown.
“We want to get every cent out of your wallet we can for the community kitchen,” said Brad Wilhelm, emcee for the event and host at the Comedy Attic. “That’s why we’re here.”
Gregg “Rags” Rago, manager of Nick’s English Hut, reported to Wilhelm from the cooking floor.
Wilhelm announced the secret ingredient to whistles and applause as Tim Clougher, assistant director of the community kitchen, displayed a large basket brimming with garlic bulbs.
“Garlic makes the world go ’round,” Rago said with a smile.
Groups of friends and family donned “We <3 Seth’s Meat” and “Vote for Corbo” T-shirts to show support for the underdogs.
Morwick, executive chef of One World Catering, competed against Seth Elgar, executive chef of Upland Brewing Co., and last year’s winner, chef Damian Esposito of the Indiana Memorial Union.
Growlers of dry beans sat on a table in the lobby, allowing attendees to pay $1 to add beans and vote for their favorite chef to win the People’s Choice award, which Morwick also won.
“I loved Corbin’s stuff,” said Esther Smail, an attendee who won an auction for a guest seat with the judges.
She tasted each of the dishes and shared commentary with the celebrity judges.
As in the Food Network show, the Chef’s Challenge recruited three judges to determine a winner: Charlotte Zietlow, cofounder of Goods for Cooks, Michael Cassady of Michael’s Uptown Café, and Alan Simmerman, Bloomingfoods fresh foods manager and winner of the 2008 competition.
One of Morwick’s defining dishes was a bowl of handmade tagliatelle, a flat noodle similar to fettucine, which Cassady dubbed a “severely gutsy move.”
“That pasta was just amazing,” Smail said. “It was like the pasta was very delicate, and it was very nice that he served that first.”
Bloomingfoods Market and Deli contributed most of the pantry foods, while local farmers furnished produce, proteins and other necessities.
But garlic was still the key ingredient.
“My gosh ... Garlic is such a challenge, but it’s the best food in the world as far as I’m concerned,” Zietlow said during judging. “I think the garlic is really the chefs’ challenge.”
The money raised through ticket sales and auctions will benefit Backpack Buddies, a system that provides a backpack full of food to low-income children and their families on Fridays, and a collaboration with the Area 10 Agency on Aging to deliver meals to the home-bound elderly.
“They’re important because they’re the two groups of the population that are most at risk for being hungry,” Clougher said.
A brochure for the event said 61 percent of community kitchen patrons are children, and 15 percent are senior citizens.
The brochure also said the $25 ticket price provided 13 meals to those in need.
In less than three hours, the Bloomington community raised enough to feed almost 12,000 people, all while enjoying the sights, smells and tastes of the local talent.
“We get to see some of the possibilities of eating really good food, which I like a lot,” Zietlow said.
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