Three chefs and local celebrities added some spice to the 21st annual Taste of Gahanna during a Celebrity Chopped Challenge held Aug. 30.

The challenge featured Mi Tradicion chef Octavio Reyes, cooking with Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Superintendent Steve Barrett; Barrel & Boar chef Kyle Steinwender, partnering with Mayor Tom Kneeland; and 101 Beer Kitchen chef Mike Frame preparing a dish with Mifflin Township Division of Fire Chief Fred Kauser.

Prior to the contest, held in front of the water wall at Creekside Plaza, Becky Kneeland, the mayor's wife, said she doesn't allow her husband to cook in the kitchen at home.

She said he does cook on a grill, though.

"If there's a fire, it's outside," she said.

Kneeland appeared to be one of the most enthusiastic contestants, though, busily chopping ingredients and sporting an apron that read, "Caution ... food 'MAY OR' may not end up edible!"

The teams were given 30 minutes to create a dish using the same ingredients: coffee, ginger, squash and chicken.

Three judges, including the event's presenting sponsor Lew Griffin, chose Frame and Kauser as the winners.

"It was a blast," Frame said. "The guy (Kauser) is good. He can use a knife. It's true what they say about firefighters. They can cook."

Frame said the challenge was a neat way to break up the event that offered a smorgasbord of the best foods, desserts and beverages from more than 20 Gahanna restaurants and establishments for one price -- $35 or $40 depending on when tickets were purchased.

"I'm so excited to have this event in Gahanna for the very first time," said Leslee Blake, president of the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce, the event host.

"And we're bringing it outside. The reason for that is that we love Gahanna and we want to shine a light on our downtown area as well as Gahanna as a whole, because we want people to be as excited about the community as we are," she said.

Blake said she has received nothing but positive responses about the event being held at Creekside.

"This is a great night with great vendors," Griffin said. "Next year this place will be packed. It's an honor to be part of Taste of Gahanna. It's great to be in the Creekside district."

Gahanna residents Luke and Amy Brotherton volunteered to work the event.

They just moved to the area in June.

"We volunteered to set up," Amy Brotherton said. "It was really fun. We were looking forward to it to learn about restaurants in the area. Mission accomplished."

Luke Brotherton said he enjoyed eating the savory foods, while his wife favored the sweets, especially the cupcakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes.

Gahanna resident Joy Albrecht sampled some of the sweets while registering voters.

"I think this is lovely," she said. "Everyone seems happy. It seems well-received."

Blake said Taste of Gahanna wouldn't have been possible without the support of the chamber's many partners, volunteers and the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla