OCTOBER 04, 2016


Chefs sliced, diced and sautéed seafood for a friendly cook-off on the Island. Chefs from around the Valley met up on the Island Monday for the Texas Chefs Association’s Rio Grande Valley Chapter’s Seafood Throwdown. It was the group’s monthly meeting held for the first time on the Island at the Pearl Hotel under the palapa on the beach. House Wine Bistro Soup Chef Jonathan Garcia, 35, had 30 minutes to make an al pastor red fish dish with steamed muscles and asparagus. From all the ingredients available, there were about 70 variations of plates that could have been cooked up and dished out.
“Every few months we try to do a competition,” said Dustin Stair, TCA regional assistant director. “This is a friendly competition to get them out of their shell.” Stair said the local chapter of the Texas Chefs Association has been ongoing for eight years.
“These events are to help them see where they are at,” Stair said. “It takes a creative mind and at the same time it takes confidence to prepare food.” Stair said being a chef is not easy. “The Food Network is good, but this is real life,” he said. He said the group wants to draw attention to the association and grow its membership.
The association takes applicants who are chefs, students or work in the cooking industry. “We are trying to get more people involved to come out,” Stair said. “Even food bloggers can join.” Augie Rodriguez cooked a red snapper with a sauce on top to give it a little kick. The side trimmings on the plate were finger-licking potatoes and asparagus to help dress the plate. “It came out really good,” Rodriguez said. “We were limited to what we could use.” Rodriguez put out two plates in the small competition between chefs.
He said he has been a member of the group for a year and has been working as a chef at Salt and the American Table for about seven months.
“These events are always a good learning environment,” Rodriguez said. “And that is what the TCA is all about.” Rodriguez, 30, said he recently moved from Phoenix and had a stereotypical idea that there was nothing going on in the Valley, and the local chefs association blew his mind. “It’s still growing and it’s still getting better and it’s what I want to be a part of,” Rodriguez said. Harlingen resident Jennifer Wilson also was at the meeting. She was invited to introduce her business, Wild August Nursery.
Wilson had brought a bucket of basil, oregano and herbs for the chefs to use in the competition.
“I was asked to come to the Chefs Association so I could meet everyone and give them flowers for their cooking,” Wilson said. Wilson said the meeting was a great networking experience for her. “I’m thrilled that this exists in the Valley,” Wilson said. “Our origin is we’re an agrarian community and I think it’s great that we are getting to cook with the stuff that we grow here.”

-By RAUL GARCIA | Staff Writer