Freelance Food & Drinks Writer

Food Fight

Three chefs, one stage. That’s what CCVI‘s first-ever Food Fight promised. It delivered so much more.

Let’s start with the food. Debbie Gold of The American, Ted Habiger of Room 39 and Colby Garrelts of bluestem had one hour to prepare three courses for four judges a la Iron Chef, working in front of a sold-out audience in the Liberty Memorial auditorium. They knew most of the ingredients—duck, scallops, fennel, greens, lemon—ahead of time, but the secret ingredient, star anise, was announced moments before the competition began.

Ted Habiger (and sous chef) of Room 39, Debbie Gold (and sous chef) of The American and Megan and Colby Garrelts battled it out at CCVI's first-ever Food Fight.

The chefs promptly began pelting each other with the dark brown pods,  and the good-natured humor and help continued throughout the event. Their food was serious, though. We didn’t get to taste, instead relying on the four judges to share their impressions. As chefs described their dishes, my mouth watered.

Garrelts and his wife, pastry chef Megan Garrelts, fired up their sous vide cooker to produce both scallop and duck dishes, and then ended with a star anise-scented chocolate souffle-come-torte. Room 39’s team produced house-made ricotta ravioli with a star anise and mushroom broth; anise-crusted scallops; and a brined duck breast. Gold and a sous chef from The American prepared a mushroom-anise broth with a poached egg and parsley and watercress pistou; a duo of duck and scallops; lemon curd with raspberries and shortbread—a line-up that earned Gold the event’s title.

Throughout it all, supporters bid on live and silent auction items and sampled food and drink donated by KC restaurants and caterers. It was all terrific. But the best part, as they say, is that it was all for the children. The Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired serves more than 300 visually impaired children, mostly from birth through kindergarten, each year.

I’ve attended a number of the organization’s events, and I always tear up at some point. Last night, it was during a video that included a five-year-old boy who described how his world “looks soft” when he takes his glasses off. He wants to play guitar in a band and be a policeman when he grows up. Who wouldn’t want to give their last penny to help this child learn to read Braille, play on the slide or do any of the other things we all take for granted every day? It’s a privilege worth fighting for.