A weekend of culinary contests in downtown Bend finally boiled down to just two ingredients: yak tenderloin and imagination.
Each hour-long round in this weekend’s Central Oregon Top Chef Competition featured a mystery ingredient the chefs learned about only moments before cooking. Yak was the surprise for the finalists Sunday at the 12th Annual Bite of Bend. Travis Taylor, executive chef at Sunriver Resort, took the title over Nick Ragazzo, chef at The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin. The competition started Saturday with a knockout bracket of eight chefs.
Taylor said he and Farice Beaudoin, the lodge chef at Sunriver and his sous-chef for the weekend, hadn’t set out to win the title but were glad to take it.
“We just came to cook,” he said.
Beaudoin said such competitions make you a better chef.
“I like the challenge,” he said.
The final round drew a crowd of about 50 people. The chefs prepared meals in a pair of kitchens set up on the Minnesota Street stage.
Trevor and Susan Devenport, of Bend, were in the audience. They said they enjoy watching chef-competition shows on TV, so it was fun to see one live.
Like many who were there to watch, they were surprised by the final-round mystery ingredient.
“The yak was shocking,” said Susan Devenport.
Using the mystery ingredient as the focus, the chefs were tasked with making an appetizer and a main dish.
Devenport said if she’d been competing, she would have made yak tacos as an appetizer and yak medallions with mushrooms for the entree.
Perhaps Taylor heard her thoughts. While he didn’t make tacos, he did pair seared yak with mushrooms as part of his main dish, which also featured olive oil mashed potatoes and zucchini. Beaudoin was behind the appetizer, which was smoked yak and fennel.
Ragazzo, with sous-chef Sean Galvin, started with a yak meatball appetizer, then grilled the yak tenderloin and served it with cherry barbecue sauce for the main dish.
Four Central Oregon chefs judged the finals, with two of them having previously earned the Top Chef title. The competition included seven Central Oregon chefs, as well as one from a food cart in Hood River. Overall, the Bite of Bend featured food galore, a fun run and live music.
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