Sip and Savour Rochester has offered me the experience to get to know the amazingly talented chefs behind the menu creations and restaurants locally. This has always been an important piece of the puzzle for me to share from the beginning.
In order to do this, I had to discover my voice and to begin to take risks and trust in myself. This is still something that I can struggle with at times, but through struggles, we can carve out our greatest paths to success. It is the obstacles that we go through that help us to grow and learn.
One of my proudest accomplishments of 2018 was creating and hosting the first Flour City All Stars: Chef Throwdown. 140 people came out to Comedy @ the Carlson to support, socialize, eat and vote for their favorite dishes, while also donating to 2 local charities.
This idea began as a tiny seed that I had shared with my friend on a car ride. While out to lunch, I shared the event idea with Chef Joe Gianvecchio of Sapori Cafe & Catering who immediately encouraged me to pursue the idea. He was all in and that was all I needed to bring the small idea to life.
In the three years of Sip and Savour Rochester, I have not only gotten to meet many talented chefs, but have been able to form lasting friendships. Along with Joe G., Chef Joe Zolnierowski of Nosh and Old Pueblo Grill is one of those people. Knowing he would be opening up his new restaurant OPG, he still quickly agreed to be part of my vision. Joe G. and Joe Z. became team captains and soon the chef teams were ready for the challenge!
Looking back, I am still in awe of the talent of the chefs that wanted to be part of the first Chef Throwdown. Not only does their creativity and skill in the kitchen cease to amaze me, but also their kindness and support.
As with any event, I hit a few bumps in the road. No matter what happened, the sense of humor of these 6 chefs kept me going. From group text messages to fine-tuning details, they were there to support me every step of the way.
The day of the event, I had been running around trying to make sure each and every detail looked exactly how I had envisioned. I had put months into the planning and I wanted every single person to enjoy themselves to the fullest. The thing with event planning is people do not necessarily know all the details behind the scenes that went into the making of the day. I remember Chef Derrick DePorter of Unterbiergarten pulling me aside and reminding me to enjoy the moment. All the hard work was already done. Now it was time for me to take it all in.
From that moment, I decided to do just that. The outpouring love and support from the event was more than I could have asked for. I want to thank everyone for their kind words and excitement centered around that night. It meant more to me that you could imagine.
Team 1 consisted of Chef Joe Zolnierowski (Nosh, Old Pueblo Grill), Chef Chris Roth (Oak Hill Country Club) and Chef Derrick DePorter (Unterbiergarten). Joining the team was Chef Cody Shane of Oak Hill Country Club, who stepped in for Chef Joe Z. as OPG was having its soft opening.
Team 2 consisted of Chef Joe + Matt Gianvecchio (Sapori Cafe & Catering), Chef Jeremy Nucelli (Char Steak + Lounge) and Chef Sean Wolf (Farmer’s Creekside Tavern & Inn), joined by Eli DeSouza (sous chef Char Steak + Lounge).
Through the Flour City All-Stars: Chef Throwdown, $2,500 was raised for two incredible organizations. The Substance Overdose Awareness Recovery Services (S.O.A.R.S.), run by Becky Baker, offers a network of support for families struggling with substance use disorder.
Camp Good Days and Special Times, Inc. is a “not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, adults and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life challenges.” Programs are free to those participating, made possible through fundraising and the generosity of the surrounding community.
After an epic first battle for the Chef Throwdown, Joe Gianvecchio, Sean Wolf and Jeremy Nucelli took home the People’s Choice Award for best team dishes.
Awards were also given for Best Taste (Joe Zolnierowski), Best Presentation (Chris Roth) and Most Creative (Joe Gianvecchio) judged by local influencers and food bloggers.
If you were amongst the ticket holders for the first Flour City All-Stars: Chef Throwdown, I thank you for being part of an epic night celebrating our local chefs and community. Tickets sold out very quickly, but don’t worry if you did not get a chance to come to the first, there will be more in the future! You can stay informed by following my social handles (Instagram, Facebook) and subscribing to my blog.
Sarah Giunta of Sarah Giunta Photography captured the memories throughout the night as well as the promotional photographs leading up to the event. The initial overwhelming response came from her “battle” photos when I released them on social media with coordinating music to “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas. Not everyone can say that they are able to work alongside their friends and I am lucky enough to do so.