Chef Smackdown At Belle Terrace, A Gift Of Love

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It was a busy night for event planner Maura Fitzgerald Friday. She was co-chairing gifts of Love annual “ready, set, COOK” fundraiser in Avon, with plans to leave there at 9:30 to head over to another one of her events in Collinsville.

She did it all with a smile.

Fitzgerald is the driving force behind the annual Gifts of Love fundraiser that featured four celebrity chefs, assisted by celebrity “helpers” in a cooking smack-down that ultimately raises money for the non-profit that provides everything from food to furniture for those in need.

“It’s hectic but it’s good,” said Fitzgerald, as she surveyed the record crowd that turned out for the competition at Belle Terrace in Avon. “We’ll get it all done.”

And done they did. With co-chair Lori Shield and a committee of workers, the event included an impressive line-up.

Celebrity chefs included former Hell’s Kitchen contestant Van Hurd, The Meat House’s Tim Hester, Chip Miller from Hartford’s Society Room in Hartford and last year’s winner Michael Lee from Max’s Oyster Bar. The chefs had back-up from celebs including former New England Patriots Tebucky Jones, Fox Ct anchor Logan Byrnes, former Whaler and New York Ranger Bob Crawford and Sacramento Mountain Lion Andre Dixon.

Emcee for the event was WHCN radio show host and Fox Ct traffic reporter Rachel Lutzker and WWYZ radio show host Corey Myers.

In between signing autographs and posing the for pictures, the celebs had a big job to do…cook up some serious food with the products they brought and the three mystery items that this year were coffee, cheese doodles and fennel.

“I never would have believed there was such a thing as cheese doodle milk,” said Rocky Hill  resident Art Plourde, as he watched one group blend cream and cheese doodles into a sauce for a risotto dish.

There were also cheese doodle potato cakes, and crushed cheese doodle-dipped brioche,  coffee crusted beef skewers and coffee mustard foam on made-on-the premise bratwurst boiled in beer.

When all was tasted, Miller was proclaimed the winner.

Among the judges was Jim Bucko, who by chance, is one of the principals in The Society Room and Belle Terrace.

“I can be fair about this,” he good-naturedly insisted as the taste testing began. “I want the best chef to win.”

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