Saturday, March 25, 2023

Happy Valley Chef wins annual cooking competition

Submitted by Appalachian Food Works

STATE COLLEGE — The final dish plated at the recent Golden Basket cooking competition included Smokehouse hash, eggplant potato pave and some sweet corn ice cream.

And after 200 servings of each homemade recipe were consumed by judges and contest visitors, Happy Valley Chef’s Thomas Novosel Jr. and his Smokehouse hash were declared the 2021 Golden Basket winner.

Novosel’s Smokehouse hash entry was prepared with roasted beets, grilled onions, sweet corn, lion’s mane mushrooms and herbs.

“It was another successful event for us this year,” said Travis Lesser, executive director of Appalachian Food Works, which sponsors the event. “When you can demonstrate the bounty that our farmlands can give us here in Central PA, and simultaneously showcase the talent of our region’s culinary artists, it’s a win for everyone.”

The finalists were given a $125 from the North Atherton Farmers Market to prepare 200 bites in advance of the event solely using ingredients from NAFM vendors’ products.

Market goes were able to sample each dish and then voted for their favorite via online voting. The people’s vote was factored into determining the winner, along with the individual vote of two judges: Maggie Anderson of Taproot Kitchen and Laura Valchar, board secretary at Appachian Food Works.

Forty-five percent of the people’s choice votes went to Novosel and Happy Valley Chef.

Runners-up were Kristen Cowher of Valley Girl Company and her rosemary eggplant potato pave with peach raspberry jalapeno jam topped with a thin slice of beef served on a leaf of lettuce; and Re Farm Café’s Shane Orndorf, who presented his sweet corn ice cream with a pepper/apple butter cutney and a chocolate bread crumble.

“I want to thank all of the chefs involved for their delicious creations, and to the market vendors and all the farms who contributed to the amazing food we all enjoyed over the past few weeks,” Lesser said. “Only one percent of the food grown in Centre County is consumed here, so it is events like this that showcase the agricultural assets our region has, proving that we can be self-sustaining and relatively immune to some of the perceived shortages other regions saw during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Four chefs entered a preliminary round July 8 to 14 — the three finalists and a representative of Pine Grove Hall — and each prepared a dish with NAFM-sourced produce only. Customers then voted online to advance the three finalists.

The Golden Basket, an annual cooking competition between local chefs in and near Centre County, benefiting non-profit Appalachian Food Works, which sponsors the event. The finals were held at the NAFM site in the parking lot of Home Depot.

In 2019, chefs went head-to-head in The Golden Basket to create unique dishes on-the-spot at State College area farmers markets, with the winner selected by a panel of judges at a gathering and cook-off in the style of television show “Chopped.”

There, at the finals at the MLK Plaza in downtown State College, RE Farm Café took home the golden basket. It was during this event, in consideration of health and safety, the Golden Basket judging was moved to an online format.