Rocky Fork Enterprise

Crowds come from all over for 'Taste'

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Bon Vie team leader Amada Jaramillo applies makeup to executive chef Jennifer Penn prior to the start of the 15th annual Taste of Gahanna on Oct. 11.

Attendance for the 15th annual Taste of Gahanna already had topped last year by 80 people before the doors opened at the Aladdin Shrine Event & Conference Center on Oct. 11.

The signature event of the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce sold 860 tickets in advance, with proceeds earmarked to provide educational programming for chamber business members.

The annual fundraiser provides guests with unlimited samples from some of the best restaurants in the Gahanna area for a nominal cost.

"It's great," said Leslee Blake, chamber director. "Looking at our online sales, people came from Hilliard and Powell, but most are from the Gahanna area. People love this, and they love this environment."

Blake compares Taste to being on a cruise ship, saying businesses give it their all to showcase their best fare -- from appetizers to desserts and table presentations.

Taste of Gahanna is designed to feature the city's restaurant tours and businesses in the food industry to promote themselves right before the holidays, Blake said.

"They know how to market themselves," she said. "If you feed them, they will come."

Jefferson Country Club executive chef Doug Miller returned to defend last year's title of winning the Chefs' Challenge contest.

During the challenge, area chefs combine ingredients to create their own signature entree in 30 minutes or less at the event.

Miller also has won "best dessert" the past three years.

He said finding sustainable, local products and flavors that blend well are keys to his success.

This year, Miller placed second in the Chefs' Challenge, behind Todd Goodwin, of The Embassy Suites Columbus Airport. Third place went to Mike Williams, of the Old Bag of Nails.

Gahanna resident Jennifer Penn participated for the first time as executive chef of Bon Vie Bistro in Columbus.

"I insisted," she said.

Penn and team leader Amada Jaramillo served the restaurant's popular grilled chicken with macaroni and cheese.

The Melting Pot manager Brandon Kleszczelski warmed the hearts of guests with a cascading fountain of milk chocolate to cover strawberries, pretzels and potato chips.

Mixing sweet with salty is a favorite, he said.

The Worthington managers Jerry and Robbin Smith dressed as the Tin Man and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz to tout the theme, "There's no place like home," for the independent senior-living community.

They served chili, cornbread and pumpkin bread.

Results of other Taste of Gahanna contests include the People's Favorite selections: Longhorn Steakhouse, appetizer; J. Gumbo's, entree (for the third consecutive year); and Koko Tea Salon & Bakery, dessert.

Showcasing carved pumpkins, including one of legendary movie actor John Wayne, Catering by Design won the honor for "best display."