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Eric Grutka Won the 2014 Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest Grand Chef Throwdown

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Another year, another fabulous food event. Sunday night saw the final foodie gathering of the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, which held its signature grand finale event, the Grand Tasting, at 150 Worth in Palm Beach.

After four full days of food-lovers paradise in Palm Beach, the final event culminated with a tension-filled, cook-off-style chef throwdown. With 30 minutes on the clock, three chefs battled for $10,000 ($5,000 for the chef and $5,000 for his charity of choice) and a year's-worth of bragging rights.

This year, chefs Eric Grutka (executive chef and owner of Ian's Tropical Grill, Stuart), Bruce Feingold (executive chef and partner of Dada, Delray Beach), and Sam Horrocks (sous chef of Pistache French Bistro, West Palm Beach) faced off during the festival's fifth annual Grand Chef Throwdown.

This year, the three local chefs were challenged to prepare a dish to be judged by a panel of high-profile foodies and celebrity chefs including Creekstone Farms president John Leland, Food Network Sandwich King host Jeff Mauro, and cookbook author Ted Allen.

As the event sponsor, Creekstone Farms announced the secret main ingredient just moments before the competition got underway: the teres major steak, a seldom-used muscle in the shoulder of a cow that is second only in tenderness to the tenderloin filet, and a pork tenderloin.

Each chef was also allowed one personal ingredient, and use of a stocked pantry. Then the timer was set, and thirty minutes ticked by as all three chefs got to cooking in front of the evenings' guests.

Cool, calm, and collected, Feingold whipped out fennel as his secret ingredient, which he braised in a citrus sauce with raisins and plated alongside clove-rubbed pork, perfectly seared beef, and a side of blistered tomato ratatouille.

A newcomer to the event, Horrocks brought sherry vinegar -- an ingredient he often uses at Pistache, especially to pickle various ingredients -- as his secret weapon of choice. His dish included thyme and shallot sweet potato puree poached in goat milk, shaved cauliflower and Brussels sprouts sautéed in brown sugar butter, and meat highlighted by a sherry pan sauce cooked with celery and apple.

The winning dish was delivered by Grutka, recipient of the Grand Chef Throwdown competition's top prize now three years running. His secret ingredient: Hozon, a fermented chickpea paste and seasoning developed by David Chang, which he used to season the beef. The meat was plated with a side of creamed greens and blistered tomatoes, and a splash of curried yogurt sauce accented by pickled apples.

Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.



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