Best chef to be crowned at Penn State's Ag Progress Days

August 04, 2008

University Park, Pa. -- Food enthusiasts -- from haute-cuisine cravers to fair-fare aficionados -- can satisfy their appetite for culinary knowledge at Penn State's Ag Progress Days, Aug. 19-21, at Rock Springs. A variety of cooking and food demonstrations will entertain visitors, while providing practical information about preparing safe and nutritious meals.

The highlight will be regional competition in the PA Preferred Best Chef of Pennsylvania competition. Eight local chefs will go whisk to whisk, vying to represent the region in the state finals in January.

The quarterfinals will take place at noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.  Tuesday, Aug. 19. The semifinals will be held at noon and 1:30 p.m., with the championship match slated for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20. Back to defend his regional crown will be Harrison Schailey, owner of Harrison's Wine Grill & Catering in State College.

Modeled after the Food Network's "Iron Chef" competition, the Best Chef of Pennsylvania contest uses ingredients reflecting the Pennsylvania-produced foods found on contemporary restaurant tables. Chefs will face off using the same ingredients from a "blind bin," including protein, starch, vegetable, fruit, seasoning and so forth. Each chef will have 30 minutes to produce a salad, soup or appetizer and an entree using at least some part of each blind-bin ingredient. Chefs will work from five-burner cooktops outfitted with appliances and cookware and will have access to a common pantry with basic grocery items, spices and herbs.

A judging panel of culinary-arts instructors from the Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center will grade the chefs on taste of their dishes; presentation and general impression; usage and harmony of ingredients; and originality/creativity. The regional winner will receive $500 and compete for the title of PA Preferred Best Chef of Pennsylvania and a $1,000 prize during the state Farm Show in Harrisburg in January.

The contest is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's PA Preferred branding program, in conjunction with Sysco Food Services of Central Pennsylvian, Bosch Thermador and the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association.

Besides Schailey, chefs in the competition will include Curiel Bame of the Ramada Conference Center in State College, Andrew Monk of Penn State's Nittany Lion Inn, Robert Burger of the Allen Street Grill in State College, Jeffery Brendle of Webster's Cafe in State College, Tom Nance of the Corner Room in State College, Matthew McKean of the Atherton Hotel in State College and Douglas Simon of the Casino at Lakemont Park in Altoona.

Cooking devotees also can get helpful hints on preparing nutritious and tasty dishes by attending food demonstrations to be held each day in the Family Room building, on Main Street between West 8th and 9th streets at the Rock Springs site. With a theme of "Healthy Family Recipes -- Fast and Flavorful," the hourly demonstrations will feature Penn State Cooperative Extension food and nutrition educators from around the state.

If all this cooking makes people hungry, there will be no shortage of things to eat at Ag Progress Days. Nonprofit and commodity association food vendors scattered around the grounds will offer a variety of Pennsylvania-produced treats, ranging from steak sandwiches and fried mushrooms to Penn State Berkey Creamery ice cream.

Sponsored by the College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State's Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on state Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 19; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 20; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 21. Admission and parking are free. For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days Web site at


Last Updated March 19, 2009