Best Chef 2018: top chefs hungry for a win in Quincy cooking fundraiser

Chefs from across the South Shore showed their chops at the the Quincy Community Action Programs’ Best Chef competition Thursday night.

QUINCY — Five plates were almost evenly matched at the Quincy Community Action Programs’ Best Chef competition Thursday night. The one feature that set the winning plate apart from the competition: American cheese fondue.

“Everything was pretty much a tie, it was the American cheese fondue that brought it up a notch,” judge Kerri Lynch-Delaney said.

The area’s top chefs participated in QCAP’s seventh annual cooking competition for the title of “Best Chef.” The fundraiser, held at the Granite Links Golf Club, raised $201,000 to support the nonprofit organization’s programs, including its food pantry.

QCAP serves more than 21,000 people in crisis each year through programs including rent and heating assistance, job coaching and placement, early childhood education and care, and financial coaching. Best Chef, its largest fundraiser of the year, supports programs across the board.

The challenge for the chefs is to use secret ingredients commonly found at food pantries to create a five-star dish in just 30 minutes. This year, chefs had to use corn muffin mix, American cheese, canned potatoes, green peppers, chicken and plums.

“It demonstrates to our clients that really great dishes can be made using these ingredients,” director of marketing Sarah Holroyd said.

After winning people’s choice for three years, Chefs David Todisco and Joseph Jean of Tavern at Quarry Hills pulled out a Best Chef win Thursday with a roasted chicken, pomegranate reduction and American cheese fondue dish.

“We were confident in the dish, but we’re going up against so many talented chefs it makes winning even sweeter,” Jean said.

“The cooking part comes natural but when you get down to it its execution” he said.

Todisco and Jean started their 30 minutes with a clear plan, but as time quickly passed they had to wing it. After “pulling it together” the two said they were happy with the win and participation in the fundraiser altogether.

“It gets everybody out of the house and excited about food,” Jean said

Lynch-Delaney, owner of 16C in Quincy, Chazy Dowaliby, former editor of The Patriot Ledger, and Barbara Isola, former member of the Quincy School Committee, judged the competition, scoring the dishes on presentation, flavor and use of ingredients.

Brain Houlihan of Bia Bistro in Cohasset, The Tinker’s Son in Norwell, Galley Kitchen & Bar in Scituate and Trident Galley & Raw Bar in Hingham spent his 30 minutes mashing potatoes for gnocchi and roasting chicken and veggies. Returning for a second year in the competition Thursday, Houlihan was hungry for a win and he said he won’t stop until he gets one.

“I’ll keep coming back until I’m 80,” he said.

Having lived in Quincy for 15 years, Houlihan said he has a special appreciation for the cause.

“We love QCAP. It’s a great company,” he said.

Jonathan Taylor of Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse in Braintree won the vote for people’s choice, a guest vote based on small dishes from each restaurant.

Other competing chefs were Collin Davis from The Townshed in Quincy and Paul Wahlberg of Alma Nove and Wahlburgers in Hingham.