Tunica, Mississippi - Though the skies were dark and the rain was falling, there was no doubt as to whether yesterday's POMA Top Chef Challenge would take place. Under the overhang of Harrah's convention hall in Tunica, grills and goods supplied by Camp Chef set the stage for our Friday morning culinary bonanza.
Here's how it worked — competitors lined up at their stations. At their feet sat a cooler full of nutritional goodness. They were told about every available ingredient (including the standard pantry items of salt, pepper, flour, etc…) except for one — the mystery ingredient. Once the bell rang, the mystery was revealed and the spatulas began to fly.
Two rounds of cooking cut the competition down to two men: Multi-POMA Top Chef winner Bill Miller (Outdoors) and Crooked Horn's challenger Tony Catalde. On the menu was whatever you could whip up with sweet potatoes, green beans, peaches, bacon and quail. Quail? Please. Do they really have any experience cooking quail?
"Quite a bit," said Crooked Horn's Catalde. "I'm a western hunter and we shoot a lot of quail. It's in our backyard so it's often dinner."
While Miller likes to keep his recipes under wraps, Catalde provided a Reader's Digest version of his tasty offerings.
"I did a bacon wrapped quail, doused it heavily peppered and salted and camp chef creole seasoning. Then deep fried the sweet potatoes for a sweet potato french fry."
They grilled and broiled and seared as the thirty minutes wound down to a halt. The judges gathered, tasted the goods and left … the winner to be reveled at last night's NRA Dinner. With both men standing before crowd, it was Bill Miller who once again walked away with the title. A shock and disappointment to the Crooked Horner.
"I thought I was going to win hands down," said Catalde. "Still, Bill is a good guy. If I'm going to lose to somebody then I'm glad it was him. But he isn't winning it again next year."