Nick Bradbury voted Vero’s Top Chef at Homeless Family Center event

VERO BEACH — The competition was fierce at Vero’s Top Chef Challenge…slice dice and spice event to benefit the Homeless Family Center, as only one could take home the coveted title of Vero’s 2010 Top Chef.

In the end, Quail Valley River Club Sous Chef Nick Bradbury was the top vote getter, beating out fellow competitors Chef Andrew Keller, from the Club at Pointe West, Chef Michele Hennessey, from the River Grille, Chef Neal Williams, from the Lakes at Pointe West and Chef Ray Mumford, from Oriente Restaurant at Costa d’Este.

  The five contenders had already bested seven other chefs at a terrific Top Chef Qualifier event in January so it was now down to the best of the best.


After winning the qualifier, each chef submitted one seafood dish and one meat entree choice to Chef Joe Faria, Executive Chef at Quail Valley and the event’s chef coordinator, who whittled the list down to a balanced menu of five entrees. 

“A lot of them put a new twist on a classic dish,” explained Faria, who admitted he was finding it difficult not to be biased toward his Sous Chef Nick Bradbury, competing for Quail Valley. 

But when asked who he felt would come out on top, he just smiled and said, “They’re all very talented and have worked very hard to get where they are.”

The heavy prep work had all been done in each individual chef’s kitchen and was then transported to the Quail Valley River Club event venue for the final presentation. 

“Right now there are about 20 of them in the kitchen,” Faria said during the cocktail hour.  “At times like this, I stay out of the way and spend more time in the dining room.” 

The whole process has to be carefully choreographed and the kitchen becomes a hub of organized chaos as chefs and their assistants put on the final touches.

“For each dish, they have 20 minutes to plate and serve 160 dinners; that’s seven plates a minute,” Faria said.

Some loyal fans in the sold-out crowd were there to cheer on their favorite club or restaurant chefs, and had virtually cast their votes before even tasting all the selections, but the majority was quite happy to wait and let their palates make the decision.

Each spectacular dish was epicurean perfection; the chefs all truly outdid themselves.  And each entree was accompanied by a wine chosen by the chef to compliment the dish.

Chef Andrew Keller, from the Club at Pointe West was the first presenter.  His cracked peppercorn studded roulade of Scottish salmon with baby spinach, wild mushrooms and teeny little cucumber balls, turned several salmon haters into salmon lovers.

Chef Michele Hennessey, of the River Grille, and the only woman contender, served up a huge butterflied prawn stuffed with pine nuts and tangy goat cheese that was set atop a risotto cake and alongside a savory salad.

Chef Neal Williams, from the Lakes at Pointe West, went with an ultra rich and delicious colossal lump crabmeat crème brulée, served alongside little mounds of rosemary duchess potatoes and asparagus spears, topped with tarragon cream.

Chef Ray Mumford, from Oriente Restaurant at Costa d’Este, impressed the crowd with a unique presentation of deconstructed Coq au Vin, that even included little individual jars of onion, fig and lardon jam.

The final presenter was Chef Nick Bradbury, of Quail Valley River Club, who wowed guests with his constructed seared tenderloin of beef towers.  The beef, tri-layered scalloped potatoes, fried green beans and eggplant were skewered with an infused bamboo stick and drizzled with Asian sauces.

With his usual flair, Commissioner Wesley Davis got some spirited bidding going on a number of live auction items after dinner, including a combination of hand-selected wines, various dining, entertainment, travel and sports packages, and a custom dinner for six by Chef Keller.

Guests each submitted one vote for their favorite entree into bright, shiny Cuisinart pots and pans from the Gifted Cook, which were whisked away for the final tally.  The votes by a panel of five expert judges, Dr. Harold Cordner, Anne Devanney, Michael Fahey, Elizabeth Kennedy and Kitty Wagner, accounted for 60 percent of the score, and were combined with 40 percent from guests.

While the audience waited for the results, Chef Faria displayed his own singular style with a rich chocolate torte for dessert, served with a delicious hot-pink scoop that had everyone stumped; it was beet balsamic ice cream.

The highly anticipated final moment came when Chef Faria, with a particularly big grin on his face, announced that Chef Ray Mumford, of Costa d’Este, had come in second, and that Vero’s 2010 Top Chef was his own Sous Chef, Nick Bradbury.

While the crowd went home full and satisfied, it was also with the thought that the money raised at the event will help the Homeless Family Center to provide programs and services for those in the community who are less fortunate.  The Center not only provides shelter, but also the tools to empower individuals to become contributing members of the community. {igallery 153}

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