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Local Chefs Vie for Top Spot

Last night, chefs from area hot spots put their culinary talents to the test. Padma Lakshmi, Emmy-nominated host of Bravo’s Top Chef , led the group of judges through an enticing evening designed to benefit the Endometriosis Foundation, a non-profit she started with Dr. Tamer Seckin, MD, “to provide hope to women suffering from the debilitating effects of endometriosis and associated diseases.”

The chefs heating up the Clarke Showroom in Norwalk were Pedro Garzon of Café Manolo , Matt Schmalle of The Capital Grille , Christian Petroni of Barcelona ’s Greenwich location, Matt Storch of Match and Robin Selden of Marcia Selden Catering . All were given a directive. The dish to be judged had to incorporate: shrimp, something crunchy, orange, green, and pepper.

“It’s really a chance for the restaurants to showcase some of their regular menu items, as well as a call to think way outside the box,” said Andrew Mitchell-Namdar, VP of Marketing for the Mitchells Family of Stores and one of the evening’s judges. “All the chefs took very different approaches and got really creative.”

In the end, it was Barcelona’s Chef Petroni who most tempted the judges’ taste buds.

“If you spoke to Christian tonight,” said Padma after announcing Chef Petroni as the winner, “he probably told you he likes to cook humble food, simple food. He probably said that to you five or six times. But his food is incredibly sophisticated and just plain yummy.”

Chef Petroni’s winning dish was, as Padma described it, “a high class version of ham and eggs.” A shrimp puree on bruschetta-style bread, topped with a crispy jamon and hardboiled egg.

Chef Selden snagged the runner-up spot, with her sautéed shrimp dish incorporating blood orange juice and red pepper.

“You might have had an edge, Robin,” teased Padma, “since you’re a caterer and you have to cook on the fly and in different locations.”

“I was also the only woman,” laughed Chef Selden.

Other dishes too delicious not to mention were the smoked bacon and truffle sliders from Chef Schmalle, and Chef Garzon’s chicken, morel mushroom and black truffle croquettes, which literally melted on the tongue.

Guests were also treated to a trunk show of Padma’s jewelry line and a silent auction, while they sipped on cocktails provided by Cointreau.

"Food is fun, fashion is fun," said Andrew. "An evening just doesn't get better than this."

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