NOTE: This is a LIVE BLOG today, June 24th, 2012. Check back often for updates, which will appear sequentially within the post. And please…ask questions! I’ll try to get them answered and posted here for you!
This post is one of the reasons I adore my job. Today, I am in sunny (ever so sunny) Los Angeles, about to head over to The Grove, where I will be meeting up with my friends from Dole as well as a few blogger friends, California Cookoff contestants, and of course, the fabulous Chef Ben Ford.
No, I can’t bring myself to call him Chef to his face. I’ve noticed others do, but, um, I’m not others. His name is Ben. And let me tell you, he’s pretty darned awesome.
Last night we all met up at his restaurant – Ford’s Filling Station. Fun vibe, gracious but unobtrusive staff, low key atmosphere…pretty much perfection. Especially considering the food! The man is a genius with food, and I wish all of you could have sampled the pork sliders. Sweet mercy. The pork is actually from his OWN farm…so he knows the pig from the inside out.
We all had a great time getting to know each other, or, catching up with those we had met at other events. (And of course, I loved hanging out with Shari from Tickled Red!) Dole has such a wonderful team, from the management, to the PR firm, to the marketers – really fantastic group, and I am thrilled to call them friends.
It was also great meeting the contestants for today’s cookoff…
- Michelle W. from Phoenix, AZ, who will be making Pineapple-Pork Quesadillas with Mandarin Crema.
- Richard S. from Waterford, CT, who brought his recipe for Banana Corn Crepes with Grilled
Fruit and Whipped Ricotta.
- And while I didn’t get to meet her, thanks to airline issues, the 3rd Finalist is Jeanette N. from
Crab Orchard, WV, who is making Taste of Dole Island Pork Sliders with Jicama Salsa.
Good Luck to everyone!! There’s $10,000 at stake!
9:10AM – We are about to head out to The Grove, where A.C Slater, or um, Mario Lopez, hosts his show. Great locale for the Cookoff!
10:30AM – Lots of buzzing about here at The Grove! The Finalists are teaming up with their Blogger Sous Chefs, planning strategies, going through their ingredients, and trying to shake those nerves!
So, who are these Sous Chef Bloggers, you wonder? Well, let me fill you in!
Joining Michelle we have Amelia from Eating Made Easy, Richard is assisted by Pamela from My Man’s Belly, and Jeanette is joined by Erika of In Erika’s Kitchen. Be sure to follow them all on Twitter for even more live updates!
Ben is finally on scene (you know the talent, always sleeping in (haha)), and shoppers are starting to wonder just what exactly is going on here! Booths are set up to offer Dole Juices and other samples, tents are keeping us cool, and just lots and lots of excitement!
Right now, I am hearing the introductory pep-talk…it’s about time to get this show on the road!!
11:30AM – Grills are fired up, juices are being Dole-d out (the peach pineapple juice is incredible), and Ben is doing some live cooking demos. Shoppers are really starting to get into the event, checking out all of the products and watching Ben…such a fun, upbeat day with perfect weather! I’m hanging out mostly in the shady VIP area (oh yeah) with Kristina Vanni (in the pink dress) and watching to make sure Shari stays out of trouble.
12:15pm – Time to Start Cooking!
The Finalists are in their stations, and the countdown is just about to begin!
Ben’s set to do some more demos – his first demo was making Dole Chopped Chicken Salad (oh, God), and Dole Fruit Smoothie Shakers are flying out of here! I’m drinking the Mixed Berry Shaker – fun and delicious at the same time.
And here are Shari and loving up on Bobby the Banana – is he cute or what?
1:00PM – Cooking is well under way!
Ben has been making the rounds, checking in on the finalists and their creations. let me tell you, I want a bite of four, as the smell wafting by here is heavenly!
The contestants have just plated their final dishes, and the lovely judges are ready to get to tasting! (Don’t you wish you were a judge?!) I’m just hoping to snag a BITE! The quesadillas look amazing, the banana crepes are gorgeous, and the sliders and salsa smell incredible!!
I’m sure they’ll have one heck of a time choosing a winner from these fabulous dishes!
2:00PM – The Judging is wrapping UP!
(And thank goodness – I got my hands on samples of all the entries! As I type this, I’ve just finished the slider (sweet mercy!), and am digging in to the quesadilla – so fresh!! The banana corn crepe is my dessert…Dying here!
It would seem up front they are about to start dancing – with the Dole Banana. I would go, but my mouth is busy, and everyone knows it’s rude to dance with your mouth full!
Oooh – I almost forgot to mention a couple of things…
One – there are over 55,000 people here today. 55,000. Let me say that one more time. 55,000. Holy nuts. Or should I say Holy Bananas?
And Two – I saw Ben’s son toddling around here with his white blonde hair. Oh my word, that child is gorgeous. Must be a family thing!
2:45PM – The WINNER!
Well, it was a toughie, but Jeanette WON! The Slider recipe just couldn’t be beat. So happy for her, and congrats to EVERYONE involved. And, Thanks DOLE for an AMAZING event!!