McCall's Shore Lodge Culinary Festival Hosts Chef-on-Chef Showdown 

If you've ever caught an episode of the Food Network TV show Chopped, you already have a pretty good sense of what chefs participating in the Shore Lodge Culinary Festival's Culinary King of the Mountain Competition on Saturday, April 6, will be up against. And if you haven't, here's a rundown from the lodge's executive director of culinary, food & beverage operations, Mark Gallaudet.

"Each course has a mystery basket," said Gallaudet, going on to explain that competing chefs must use the basket's wacky ingredients, along with stocks from a provided pantry, to craft dishes under tight time restrictions. "... In the pantry we've got 180 ingredients, from spices to fruits and nuts, grains and vegetables, some proteins, dairy products and cheese. And then they've got the four [ingredients] that are in their baskets."

click to enlarge COURTESY SHORE LODGE
  • Courtesy Shore Lodge

The challenge is complicated by the fact that each invited chef is paired with a small team of amature cooks, all of whom pay for the privilege of working alongside professionals. This year's all-star cast includes French Chef Franck Bacquet of Bacquet's in Eagle and Justin Scheihing, the executive chef of Boise's Mai Thai. Two other contenders have yet to be confirmed.

"A good chef who has got the ability to lead a team sets himself up for success," said Gallaudet, who spearheads the event. His duties include lining up the teams and ordering the mystery basket ingredients, which are shipped unmarked and kept on lockdown until the contest begins.

King of the Mountain is a competition in three rounds: appetizer, entree and dessert. Each round sees one team eliminated (though the group cut in round one gets to keep cooking for round two with no chance of winning, in a nod to the paying participants) until a winner is left standing. In a charitable twist, the dishes are auctioned off to onlookers, with all of the proceeds going to the McCall-Donnelly Education Foundation. One notable difference this year, the festival's sixth, is that there won't be a chef representing the home team—chefs from Shore Lodge and the Whitetail Club have dominated five out of the last six years, so this year's out-of-towners-only field of contenders will ratchet up the suspense.

click to enlarge COURTESY SHORE LODGE
  • Courtesy Shore Lodge

The King of the Mountain Competition kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday, but it's only one piece of the festival's three-day package. Cooking demonstrations, a chef meet-and-greet, brunch, a wine education class and a winemaker's dinner prepared by the competing chefs also fill the schedule Friday-Sunday, April 5-7. While admission to the whole shebang doesn't come cheap—all-inclusive packages start at $235 per person—the Chopped-style fun is free to spectate, and attendees can browse the Farmer's and Fair Trade Market and watch food- and wine-centric films at the lodge without parting with a penny. If only the drive up were free, too.

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