by Anneli Rufus
At yesterday's ninth annual Crabby Chef Competition -- an Iron Chef-type match hosted by Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto and held under cloudy skies across Fourth Street from the landmark Berkeley restaurant -- the surprise winner was Berkeley's Kitchen, a Telegraph Avenue-based "food network" that offers cooking clinics and serves Sunday brunches while aiming to educate the public about sustainability and culinary diversity and donating some of its proceeds to charities worldwide. Given twenty minutes to prepare a dish using crabmeat and the day's "secret ingredient," which was pomegranate, BK team members Anna Zulaica and Cristina Lau crafted exquisite crab-stuffed golden crepes with an apple-pomegranate sauce. (Full disclosure #1: I was one of the judges! Full disclosure #2: Yes, I'm a "flexitarian" now, following my doctor's advice.)
The contest's eight contenders included restaurants, caterers, and cooking schools. Coming in third was last year's first-placer, Emeryville's Paulding & Co., who served a vivid cioppino topped with chawan mushi, a Japanese-style steamed egg custard; second place went to two students from the Contra Costa College Culinary Arts Program, who whipped up three separate dishes including a bacon-studded bisque.
Food was also for sale at surrounding booths; $2,500 in proceeds was donated to the Cal Recreational Sports Development Fund's Camp Scholarship Program.
That the top two winners were the youngest contenders was an intriguing twist. The East Bay's culinary future is clearly in capable hands.