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Paella and Perfect Weather, Just as Johnny Hernandez Ordered It


Zach Lutton of Zedric's makes his paella, which won second place in the challenge.

Ty-Lor Boring uses his burner to cook lobster.

Saturday did not end on a pretty note, in terms of weather. Cold, miserable rain left the ground saturated and spirits low. Luminaria had to be postponed, and hopes were not high for the third annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery.

"Top Chef" favorite Lindsay Autry

Yet on Sunday morning, the clouds fled the scene, leaving a healing sun in its wake that dried out the amphitheater and made for a perfect afternoon that drew hundreds of people who wanted to sample paella made by many of the city’s best chefs as well as several out-of-town visitors, including several chefs from the recent “Top Chef” Texas season.

Credit for the success of the event goes to organizer Johnny Hernandez, said David Kellaway, managing director of the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus, which is also at the brewery.

The event is a fundraiser for the culinary school as well as the educational arm of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“The energy and passion (Hernandez displays) towards educating our youth in the culinary arts cannot be quantified,” Kellaway said.

The student team from Lanier placed second in the new high school challenge.

Hernandez, who owns La Gloria Ice House and True Flavors Catering, had wanted the lot power washed before the event, and it seems as if God obliged, the school official joked.

The styles of paella varied greatly. Jason Dady and his crew presented a version blackened with squid ink yet brightened with fresh green herbs. The folks from Max’s Wine Dive offered a Texas paella with game meats and a chipotle butter. Visiting chef Tim McCarty from Minnesota offered three P’s: pork, prawns and popcorn, with ribs and pork belly in the mix.

Mustachioed chef  Ty-Lor Boring from “Top Chef” added a dramatic touch by firing his lobster directly in the flames of his burner. Last year’s champion, Jeff Balfour of Citrus at the Hotel Valencia, offered a paella that featured chicken and arrived topped with egg, which was meant to leave you wondering which came first.

Winning chef James Canter celebrates with his son.

In the end only three of more than two dozen entries would be honored. They were, in order, James Canter of Alhambra in McAllen; Zach Lutton of Zedric’s: Healthy Gourmet to Go, 9873 I-1o W.; and Peter Holt of Lupe Tortilla, which has a San Antonio location at 21103 U.S. 281 N.

Canter arrived at the winner’s table with his son perched high on one shoulder, prompting Kellaway to remark that he had already been given the best award of all.

This year, for the first time, San Antonio high schools were eligible to complete in their own division. Six schools showed up, including Burbank, John Jay, Lanier, McCollum, Memorial and Roosevelt. There was a lot riding on a terrific paella from the students, because the winning team will receive a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip to the CIA’s main campus in Hyde Park.

The winners, in order, were John Jay, Lanier and Memorial.

McCarty, who works for Sodexo, participated last year and was certainly enjoying himself once more. “As long as I make a great paella, I’m already a winner,” he said, while spooning up plates and handing them to the crowds that waited in line.

It's paella for all, with many of the chefs, including Steven McHugh of Luke, making multiple trays.

It's paella for all, with many of the chefs, including Steven McHugh of Luke, making multiple trays.

 

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Are You Ready for Paella? The Annual Challenge Returns March 11


Jeff Balfour's winning paella from 2011.

Have you ever wanted to taste the cooking of a few of the contestants on “Top Chef”? You’ll get your chance at the third annual Corona Paella Challenge on March 11.

Lindsay Autrey, who made it to the top three this season, will be at the Pearl Brewery, 200 E. Grayson St., for the event, along with Ty-Lor Boring and Keith Rhodes, both of whom were also involved in the season that was partially filmed in San Antonio.

Chef Jeff Balfour of Citrus in the Hotel Valencia, 150 E. Houston St., will be defending his title as champion of the event.

Other chefs making paella for the crowds to sample include Jeff Littlefield of Waterfront Resort, Tim McCarthy of the Mayo Foundation, Jhojans Priego of Villa Rica, cookbook author and Seasons of My Heart Cooking School chef instructor Susana Trilling, Jason Dady of Bin 555 and Tre Trattoria, Steven McHugh of Lüke, who placed second last year, and Jeffrey Axell and David Wirebaugh, both of the Hyatt hotels.

Enormous paella pans cook enough of this Spanish rice dish for 50 people at a time.

The event is hosted by chef Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria at the Pearl, and proceeds will benefit The Culinary Institute of America­, San Antonio, and the Educational Foundation of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“Our goal is to raise awareness about the world-renowned culinary campus we have here in San Antonio: The Culinary Institute of America,” Hernandez said. “We are committed to increasing the opportunities for scholarships and funding for young chefs interested in a career in the food industry.”

In addition to an array of outrageous and outrageously good paellas, there will be wines from Spain and a line of craft and imported beers.

San Antonio band Bachaco will perform its blend of reggae, dancehall, and ska mixed with South America’s own Caribbean legacy rhythm of Cumbia.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $50 for adults or $25 for children under age 12. Tickets can be purchased at www.culinariasa.org/wine-festival/main/tickets.php and at Pearl during the event.

 

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