Big Turnout For Brooks County Skillet Festival [GALLERY]

By: Brooks County Email
By: Brooks County Email

Press Release: Brooks County

Georgia v Florida Chefs Competed in “Cast Iron Chef” Cook-Off;
$500 awarded to Second Harvest of Brooks County, Ga.

Quitman, Georgia, USA (October 21, 2013) — Cooking in three heats using mystery box ingredients that showcased Brooks County Georgia, six chefs from Georgia and Florida cooked up a tasty competition under tents near the Brooks County Courthouse on Saturday, October 19, 2013.

The “Cast Iron Chef” cook-off took place during the 3rd Annual Brooks County Skillet Festival in Quitman, Ga.

“This event was exactly what we had envisioned: seasoned professional chefs spotlighting our amazing locally grown products,” said Lauren A. Basford, founder and organizer of the Skillet Festival. “Our hope is that this will not only encourage other locals to focus their attention and money to these agri-businesses, but will help spread the word throughout the culinary community.”

Cast Iron Chef pitted chefs representing each state against one another in a bid to win the judges’ favor. The competition took place in three heats and at 9 a.m., competitors drew for cook timeslots knowing that ingredients for 10 a.m. skewed salty, Noon trended savory, and 2 p.m. leaned sweet. All competitors were challenged to create a dish using mystery box ingredients in just one hour using one cast iron skillet and one burner.

In the first round, Chef Tim Creehan of Destin, Fla., proprietor of Cuvee Bistro and Cuvee Catering as well as creator of the instant marinade Grill Plus, went head to head against Chef Jeff Sommer, executive sous chef at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga. Chef Sommer’s salty dish was awarded the win by judges Chef Rick Van Hook, program coordinator of the culinary department at the Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, Curtis Pickels, pharmacist and long-time mayor of Quitman, and Lori Hennesy, Georgia Tourism’s Magnolia Midlands regional representative.

In the second heat, Chef Jimmy McManus, executive chef of Legendary, Inc. (Emerald Grande, Rutherfords 465 and Legendary Catering) in Destin, Fla., faced off against Chef Keira Moritz, chef/owner of Steel Magnolias in Valdosta, Ga. Chef McManus’ savory dish was declared winner by judges Tom Carroll, president of Sunset Farm Foods (which donated various sausages for the Mystery Boxes), State Representative Amy Carter of House District 175, and Randy Mullinax, a Quitman native now living in Atlanta and working as a church consultant, national speaker and conference leader.

With the score tied one to one, round three chefs felt added pressure to score a victory for their team. Chef Daven Wardynski, executive chef of the Omni Amelia Island Plantation on Amelia Island, Fla., battled against Chef Jason Brumfiel, executive chef of The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort on St. Simons Island, Ga. Chef Brumfiel’s sweet dish was awarded the win by judges Executive Pastry Chef Karie Brown, of Atlanta, Ga., Beth Meeks, Southern Marketing Supervisor for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and State Representative Jason Shaw of House District 176 (and also a partner of Georgia Olive Farms, Inc., in Lakeland, Ga.)

“Being a judge was a lot harder than I expected,” said Jason Shaw. “I was totally blown away by the creativity and talents displayed by both of the chefs in my category. I was nervous for them as I tried to figure out how they could make something sweet out of the mystery ingredients and a single pan. They made it look so easy and then made our job seem the hardest. We had to make the tough choices and all I wanted to do was keep eating.”

Indeed, “the competition was very close—score margins were narrow—but in the end judges declared Georgia the winning team,” said Basford. “But I think we proved how creative talented chefs can be when working with local foods, and that was the real point. Georgia and Florida are well matched in talent when it comes to cooking with local foodstuffs.”

With Team Georgia named winner, Sunset Farm Foods will donate $500 worth of its products to Second Harvest of South Georgia, the regional food bank which serves 30 counties in the area.

“We are thrilled to be the beneficiary of this fun event,” said Eliza McCall, chief marketing officer for Second Harvest. “Foods high in protein generally cost more, which makes it even more difficult for low-income families and individuals to get the nourishment they need. Sunset Farm Foods’ donation of 150 pounds of sausage will provide a great source of protein to hundreds of people across South Georgia.”

“At The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation we also donate food to Second Harvest,” said Chef Jeff Sommer. “It’s a great organization.”

The 4th Annual Skillet Festival will be held on Saturday, October 18, 2014.

“It was just like returning home,” said Chef Jason Brumfiel, reflecting upon his visit. “I’ve never felt more welcomed! I can’t wait to bring my family for a visit to Quitman. It’s not often you come to a small town festival to truly feel like you’ve transported back to a time in your life when things seemed much simpler.”

About the Skillet Festival
The Skillet Festival is held the third Saturday of October. Sponsored by Destination Brooks and held on the historic Courthouse Square in Quitman, Ga., the festival offers something for everyone, including culinary exhibitions, food/culinary vendors’ market, the “Cast Iron Chef” professional cooking competition, a 5k run/walk, children’s activities, a dog show, live musical entertainment, and the signature event, a skillet throwing contest. This year, The Guinness Book of World Records was on site to certify the record for the largest number of cast iron skillets thrown at one time. Come see what’s cooking in Brooks County. For more information, please visit or call 229-263-9085.

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