Having never been in the presence of a celebrity chef before, imagine what a delight it was for me to be in a room with two of them at the same time. On Tuesday, Oct. 25, Westminster Canterbury on the Bay hosted celebrity Chefs Jet Tila and Fabio Viviani for “An Evening of Culinary Excellence” to benefit the Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
The two chefs were there to demonstrate their top-notch culinary skills to a group of fascinated guests and orchestrate a remarkable, four-course meal to remember—but it was also a friendly competition. Tila and Viviani went head to head to prepare two distinguished entrees, which guests would then vote on at the end of the evening to determine the winner. The meals were created from both the chef’s recipes and prepared by the Westminster Canterbury Culinary team directed by Executive Chef Sandra Suria. The two chefs kept the crowd wildly entertained during their culinary demonstrations, offering some hilarious humor as well as a bit of jesting to one another. They also happily answered questions from the audience.
First, a little background info on these two extraordinary chefs, just in case you’re not a Bravo or Food Network know-it-all. Chef Jet Tila has appeared on many national TV shows, including “Iron Chef America” and as a judge on “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Chopped.” He’s also a consultant, a teacher and a student in the art of food. He’s launched Modern Asian Kitchen, a fast-casual Pan-Asian concept with locations nationwide, and he is set to open Kuma Snow Cream, a shaved ice concept. He hosts his own radio show in Low Angeles where he’s from.
Photo by George Culver, I Heart Food
Chef Fabio Viviani hails from Florence, Italy and was trained in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. He made his television debut on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and now shares his culinary expertise through television appearances, cookbooks, e-books, web series and many remarkable restaurants, as well as a lobster fishing company and home seafood delivery service. There’s also the Fabio Viviani Wine Collection, which proved an excellent start to the evening and paired nicely with the dishes.
Photo by George Culver, I Heart Food
As a lush chardonnay from Fabio Viviani filled my glass, an amuse-bouche from Viviano's recipe collection filled my plate. For this first, fantastic course, I bit into a pancetta-stuffed arancini, which is a stuffed rice ball coated with bread crumbs and deep fried. The arancini was plated with marinara, shaved romano and fresh basil.
Up next, a scrumptious yuzu crab and avocado salad from Jet Tila plated with a butter lettuce salad with pomegranate seeds, apples and shaved celery from Fabio Viviani.
As glasses of Viviano's cabernet sauvignon were being poured, servers delivered the spectacular dueling entrees.
Fabio Viviani prepared a beef filet alongside what I'd call a cousin to caprese, created with burrata, blistered tomatoes, pine nuts and pesto and topped with microgreens.
Jet Tila created a black cod misoyaki atop black forbidden rice and also topped with microgreens. (Chef tip: while preparing this dish, Tila explained to the audience that, when making any rice dish at home, it’s crucial to let your rice sit for 30 minutes before fluffing it.)
As guests finished their entrees (practicing great self control by not licking their plates at the end of the meal), they used their smartphones to go online and vote for their favorite main dish. In the meantime, dessert was on its way out.
From Jet Tila’s recipe collection came a buttermilk panna cotta (which he explained is similar to a crème brulee but without the egg or torched sugar.) Instead, the dessert was topped with a spun sugar dome and rested on fresh, tropical fruit.
From the Westminster Canterbury Culinary Team came two signature chocolate lavender truffles with caramel, sea salt and a chocolate drizzle.
After both chefs made their way around the tables to greet attendees and pose for photos, a live auction was held for items such as Fabio Viviani wine, cardboard cutouts of the chefs—and even the chefs’ jackets from both Tila and Viviani. Proceeds from the auction benefited the Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
As the evening came to a close, it was time to announce the winning chef—Jet Tila wowed the crowd with his black cod misoyaki over forbidden rice, and he’ll likely enjoy bragging privileges over Viviani for a very long time.
Guests departed with goodie bags that included a bottle of Fabio Viviani wine, Fabio’s American Home Kitchen cook book and a flash drive containing recipes from the night’s event. Surely the most valued portion of the evening, however, was being in the presence of two incredibly talented chefs with wonderful personalities to boot.