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Cooking Challenge has Chefs Cooking From Charity Food Pantry

Every day ingredients from the non-profit's pantry get transformed into Michelin-quality dishes at Chefs of Compassion: Cooking for a Cause.

Chef Brad Kraten wasn’t ashamed to admit he was disappointed the food pantry at West Valley Community Services didn’t have any SPAM in it.

“I love it,” says Kraten, executive chef of in Cupertino. "I like SPAM for some reason. SPAM is underrated."

He was really looking forward to doing a riff on SPAM Musubi—a Hawaiian dish made with teriyaki sauce, rice and SPAM wrapped in nori dried seaweed—for his dish at the second annual Chefs of Compassion: Cooking for a Cause, the event that challenges local chefs to shop WVCS’s pantry—the same pantry from which the agency’s clients select free food—and turn the ingredients into tasty dishes.

What he settled on was chicken, olive paste, mushrooms, corn bread stuffing and cottage cheese that will be turned into olive stuffed chicken with mushroom bread pudding and pan jus.

Kraten says he was surprised to find fresh meats, produce, eggs and cheeses in WVCS's pantry, which provides food to more than 2,000 people and other services to more than 6,000 people in the cities of Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and West San Jose.

Kraten's dish is one of a four-course meal that ticket holders will enjoy at Lexus of Stevens Creek Friday night.

Proceeds from Chefs of Compassion benefit WVCS’s hunger and homeless programs and services. Tickets—$100 per person and $1,000 for a table of 10—are still available and can be purchased online at www.ChefsOfCompassion.org.

Though dishes will be judged by a panel of local foodie dignitaries, chef Joey Elenterio of Mountain View’s Chez TJ says he’s less concerned about the competition element of the event and doesn’t care if they “come in last.”

“It’s all really just more about the charity and the reason behind it,” Elenterio says.

Besides, he says, he and his team aren’t the ones who will be doing the cooking that night. A caterer will cook all the chefs’ menus.

“It’s kind of scary,” he says of being judged on something he won’t have complete control over.

He’s up for challenges though and says he deliberately selected items from the pantry for his dish that he thought other cooks might be afraid to work with.

He picked rice milk, blackberries, jalapeno, turkey bacon and spinach.

“I tried to pick obscure ingredients to try to show people (for instance) that jalapeno is not always spicy, in fact it can be pretty fruity. And rice milk is something that is kind of scary to most people,” he says.

The dish he developed from that unique combination is Blackberry Jalapeno Savory Rice Milk Panna Cotta with Crispy Turkey Bacon and Blanched Spinach.

The other competing executive chefs are Ross Hanson of Restaurant James Randall in Los Gatos, and David Wiesner of Siena Bistro in Willow Glen.

Dishes will be judged on a five point scale for taste, presentation, and creativity, and event attendees will determine by vote a second award.

The evening’s judges include Carolyn Jung, editor and writer of food blog www.FoodGal.com; Tracy Lee, founder and CEO of Dishcrawl, Sheila Himmel, former food critic of the San Jose Mercury News, Linda Zavoral, travel editor of San Jose Mercury News and Abby Schwartz of Yelp.com.

Registration begins at 5 p.m. with dinner and program starting at 6 p.m. More information can be found www.ChefsOfCompassion.org or www.wvcommunityservices.org.

Beatrice Karnes September 13, 2012 at 07:05 PM
"olive stuffed chicken"... "Blackberry Jalapeno Savory Rice Milk Panna Cotta"....YUM!
Anne Ernst September 14, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Makes you want to buy a ticket, right, Bea?

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