Back in late June, chef and voice of the popular Beckett's Table restaurant, Justin Beckett, put a call out to the community asking for people to pitch their creative, sustainable, food-focused ideas for a chance at $17k in cash and a $10k marketing package from Phoenix based PR firm The Up Agency in the first ever Feed Your Dreams contest.
More than 50 entries were submitted but only six made it to the final round. and last night three of those finalists walked away with cash in their pocket to start making their dreams a reality.
To celebrate, more than 100 people packed the Arizona Science Center's lobby for the first-ever Feed Your Dreams Exhibition Dinner. Guests (Chow Bella was lucky enough to score an invite) were served a five course dinner prepared by the Beckett's Table staff and listened to presentations from the six finalists to help choose who would win the $5000 Innovation Ovation award.
The evening started out with a cocktail reception where guests met the finalists and learned more about their ideas over small skewers of melon dusted with fresno chili, tiny almond waffle cones filled citrus-y salmon mousse, and bite-sized pieces of crunchy toasts points topped with creamy chicken pate and Beckett's housemade tomato-lemon jam.
After folks shook hands and made friends, guests found seats to listen to each of the finalist present their cases with speeches and slideshows. In between presenters, the Beckett's Table team brought out food and kept wine glasses full.
The menu theme for the evening was obviously science, with each of the five course descriptions sounding like a science experiment -- but once the dishes were presented, no one seemed to care that they couldn't pronounce half the stuff on the menu.
First out was a plated appetizer of chilled shrimp on top of an avocado, black bean salad with crunchy corn nuts an chili threads. The bright shrimp went nicely with the chilled salad and paired nicely with balanced glass of Domaine du Pouy Uni Blanc '11. During dinner, we were enlightened by presentations from Jason Raducha about his four ingredient bread from his very own microbakery, Noble Bread and learned all about Sub-Irrigated Planter Systems from Cade Strippelhoff
Next up was a tasty little salad of fresee, arugula, green beans, and sunflower sprouts sprinkled with locally sourced feta and drizzled with a smoked tomato vinaigrette paired with a '10 Long Meadow Ranch Sauvigon Blanc. The white wine really brought out the flavors of the earthy salad.
Charles Lee gave one of the best presentations for his product mberry. Literally called the Miracle Berry, this fruit is native to Taiwan and extremely hard to grow. But the interesting thing about the berry is that it makes everything sweet -- lemons, vinegar, beer - everything! He ended up winning the $2000 Facebook people choice award, which he and his company plan on using to release the very first mberry cookbook.
Christoph Kaiser also presented his master idea for the V Gen Powerplant, a bio-diesel run generator that taps directly into a restaurant's vegetable oil system to recycle the grease and power the restaurant all at once.
We also heard from finalist John Bogart who along with his wife and (absolutely adorable) son were there to explain the complex mechanics of Self-Sustaining Aquaculture also know as Aquaponics. Bogart (and his family) apparently charmed the pants of the guests and won the $5000 Innovation Ovation award which was chose by the guests at the end of the night. Hopefully, we'll start seeing his fresh, Phoenix-grown tilapia at farmers markets in the near future.
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Alright back to the food! For the main course, the Beckett's team brought out plates with big meaty chunks of "Nonenzymatic caramelized fork tender short ribs" with a sweet carrot puree and a crispy veggie succotash.
Between courses we also heard from the lively husband and wife duo and gardening superstars, Bruce & Tina Leadbetter. They run Stone Hoe Gardens and currently provide homegrown veggie for the T. Cooks team. The two hope to expand their growing potential with the use of their VermiSoks growing platform. The two won the big grand prize of $10,000 cash and the PR package worth $10,000.
With all that prize money, we almost forgot about dessert! Thick pieces of tender coconut cake coated with golden toasted shredded coconut and smoked cashews (that tasted like bacon!). The plate was garnished with chocolate and a light coconut milk pastry cream and served with a flute of '06 Wild House Russian Cuvee Sparking wine. It was sweet ending to an educational evening.