Home»Food»Come for the Food; Stay for the Food: 11 Years, and the Annual Ashland Culinary Festival Is Still Yummy

Come for the Food; Stay for the Food: 11 Years, and the Annual Ashland Culinary Festival Is Still Yummy

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2016 Top Chef Winner, Josh Dorcak of MÄS pictured with his Sous Chef, Garrick Kosct of Ashland High School.

As much as Ashland may be known for its chumminess and collaborative nature—and that includes the culinary scene—the chefs here still like to compete with each other, at least once each year. The annual event takes place November 2 – 5, and 12 of Ashland’s chefs will battle for the Top Chef Title. Local wine, brews and food samples will be aplenty while informative workshops, a mixology competition and even a junior chef competition keep the action level high. A few local chefs, including two-year Top Chef defending champion Josh Dorcak of MÄS Ashland, give their insights on the event.

 

Joshua Dorcak, MÄS, Chef/Owner

What is the biggest challenge of being a part of an event like this?

The biggest challenge is the cooking area. It’s such a different set up than any other cooking environment; not to say it’s bad just that it’s different.

What would you consider your specialty when it comes to food?

My specialty is multi coursed tasting menus. I like the experience that a 12 course meal provides.

Any new ingredients that you have been experimenting with lately?

New ingredients not so much, just different applications of local food… I am really into making different non-alcoholic drinks as of late… also using those drinks to cook with… more of a full circle usage of ingredients.  

 

Tony Efstratiadis, Plancha, Owner/Chef

Have you participated in the Ashland Culinary Festival before?

I participated in the event last year as a sous chef while working at the Luna Cafe at the Ashland Springs Hotel. We ended up coming in second to Josh, the winner, however we beat him in our first round. So, the only difference I anticipate this year will be that I will win.

2016 Top Chef Competition – Dish by finalist, Javier Cruz. Photo Credit: Judge Fabiola Donnelly of Not Just Baked (http://www.notjustbaked.com/)

What is the biggest challenge of being a part of an event like this?

Unfortunately, having a small restaurant means I have a small staff, so in order to participate in the event, I have to close my restaurant for the day. A small price to pay to be the winner.

What would you consider your specialty when it comes to food?

I’ve always been in love with Mexican food, but I believe that at this point in my career, my specialty is being able to fuse flavors from all cuisines and making something unique and phenomenal.

Any new ingredients that you have been experimenting with lately?

Recently, I’ve been testing out the boundaries of marijuana in food. How the different strands pair with food based on aroma, taste and what kind of high you get. Not that I’ll be able to use that knowledge in the festival.

 

James Cyrus Gray, Sous Chef, SOU Dining by A’viands

What is the biggest challenge of being a part of an event like this?

Not knowing some of the ingredients or dish requirements ahead of time always makes things more interesting. I’d like to think I know what I’m doing when it comes to that, though. A lot of being a chef is knowing how to improvise with ingredients and flavors.

Any new ingredients that you have been experimenting with lately?

I’m experimenting with lots of local vegetables like yellow squash, since it’s the right time of year for it. 

 

Brent Herud, Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine, Sous Chef

What would you consider your specialty when it comes to food?

I always have a hard time answering that question. My belief as a Chef is that the study of food is a life long journey and so my specialty tends to be related to a book or ingredient that I have been looking into at the time.

Any new ingredients that you have been experimenting with lately?

I have not been playing with anything new ingredients as of late, but the seasons have just changed which has brought a new set of groceries in the back door. One of the things that I like most about Oregon is that with the changing of the seasons it brings a new palate of ingredients to work with.

William C. Shine II, Hearsay Restaurant Lounge and Garden, Executive Chef

What is the biggest challenge of being a part of an event like this?

It’s hard to anticipate what they will throw at us. Last year we were given a protein and a vegetable or fruit as our secret ingredients and had to incorporate into our plates. We only needed to create and execute one dish using these ingredients.  

One year competitors had to create a brunch dish. Two years ago we had to create a hot and cold dish. It all depends on what the judges want to see. A lot of it comes down to technique and different cooking methods along with how creative you are with the secret ingredients. It’s good to have a few recipes memorized and some tricks up your sleeve. 

Any new ingredients that you have been experimenting with lately?

Some new ingredients I have been playing with are octopus and a few different spices. I know octopus is nothing new but I really haven’t ever been able to play with it. Our spice rack at work is pretty extensive so I love to have different spices into recipes. It’s a great way to incorporate flavors into food. I like to add things to the menu that other restaurants in town aren’t using. 

 

11th Annual Ashland Culinary Festival

November 2 – 5

Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites, 2525 Ashland Street, Ashland

$10 – $150

Full schedule at ashlandchamber.com

 

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