Eight compete in first Southern Vermont Cooking Challenge to raise money for homeless coalition

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BENNINGTON — While the sun sizzled outside, chicken appetizer dishes were served inside Madison's Brewery on Sunday at the first-ever Southern Vermont Cooking Challenge.

Organized by Chris Bates and Stephanie Calabro to benefit the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless, eight cooks signed up to offer their best chicken appetizer dish for a chance to win a spot on the restaurant's menu and a gift card worth up to $200 to Hannaford. Nine raffles were given away, The Julie Shea Band performed and each attendee was given a voucher for one beer flight, or four samples. About 60 people turned out for the event.

Audrey Brillon won first place for her chicken Parmesan poppers, and she was also voted people's choice. Justin Jowett served a chicken bacon balsamic bruschetta and placed second, and Kathy Williams and her chicken taco dish placed third.

"I just love to cook," Brillon said. "I don't have a specialty. I do quesadillas and chicken parm."

Jowett is the manager at Ramunto's Brick Oven Pizza and wanted to participate because it was "something fun for the community."

Three judges sat behind closed doors and were given each dish by number and rated them on presentation and taste. Whoever had the highest score won first place. Matt Willey, Ramunto's owner, Tim Cahill, Hannaford manager and Jamie Dufour from Manchester Center volunteered to judge.

"I was very surprised at the turnout," Bates said. "This is the pilot. We want to see it happen again."

Peter Yerke, whose chicken Alfredo bites fell behind Williams', wished to create something different for the challenge.

"It's restaurant quality. Anyone can make a dip," he said. "I wanted to make something different. It's for a good cause. I'm definitely a griller, not a baker."

Other cooks included Brandon Michael Daigneault, Kevin Breese, Joey Kulkin, and Gerard Prue.

The next fundraiser challenge is slated for football season and will be held at Ramunto's Brick Oven Pizza associated with a tailgate theme.

— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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