The Georgia/Florida rivalry heats up a little more on Saturday at the 3rd annual Brooks County Skillet Festival
on the Courthouse Square in Quitman, Ga
. Six chefs (three from Florida and three from Georgia) will go head-to-head “Cast Iron Chef” cook-off. Chef will create a dish using a box of mystery ingredients in one hour using just one cast iron skillet and one burner.
Each mystery box will showcase ingredients sourced from Brooks County, Ga., and the surrounding 150-mile area. To challenge all competitors with unexpected surprises, mystery box ingredients will skew salty for the first heat of the competition at 10 a.m., then savory at Noon and end with sweet at 2 p.m.
In Georgia, Chef Jeff Sommer, executive sous chef, The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation
), is ready. Armed with his well-seasoned cast-iron skillet along with all the equipment needed to prepare a course inspired by the ingredient in the mystery box, he is also "bringing a very strong mindset to win the competition, but all in good fun."
And he has practiced.
"Every few days, my fellow chefs helped me train by handing me a basket full of 'mystery' ingredients with the challenge to create a specific course – either an appetizer, entrée or a dessert. When I tested myself for this challenge, I gave myself a 45-minute time limit, despite the one hour we will have for the actual competition. Time goes by quickly, so this helps to give me a little buffer. For the most part, I have prepared typical Southern-inspired dishes during my practice sessions, but I’ve also had to incorporate some off-the-wall items, like a box of Asian ingredients to work with."
For the secret ingredients, Sommer imagines there will be some Brooks County sausage, and possibly some poultry and pork.
"Some wonderful Southern ingredients, like peaches, grits, collard greens, will likely show up in some of the baskets."
"I've worked on making a presentable meal, hot out of one pan. Cast iron has the great ability to hold heat, so it sears fish and meats well. I'm hoping for some fresh proteins."
He has taken an academic approach as well by researching the culinary foods of Georgia since he points out "all of the judges are from Georgia."
Not only will he bring his knives and cutting board Saturday to the competition, but also a lot of inspiration and creativity.
When it comes to the secret ingredients, Wardynski guesses include Sunset Farms sausage, Grass Roots meats and Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses.
While the chef competition is the culinary centerpiece of the event, it is one of many things planned from 8 a.m - 4 p.m. The festival also features live music, children's activities and more. Don't miss the signature event, the skillet throwing contest.
(photos courtesy of the Brooks County Skillet Festival)