November 15, 2011:
Excerpt from Santa Fe New Mexican “Running with a Fork,” Durham Wins First Showdown in Festival
On Sunday, the finalists battled at Eldorado Hotel & Spa, and they had some serious talent on hand for the judging: chef and cookbook author Sara Moulton of Food Network and PBS; Esquire magazine’s 2011 Chef of the Year and former Santa Fe resident John Rivera Sedlar; and James Beard Award-winning chef, and restaurateur and cookbook author Bradley Ogden.
The chefs performed admirably and under incredible pressure, but alas — there could only be one winner. Ladies and gentlemen, a heartfelt congratulations to chef Rocky Durham, who predicted he’d win in the days leading up to the show and never doubted it for a second! Rocky wowed the judges with an appetizer, entrée and dessert crafted from ingredients chosen by event organizers and judges. And he left that night $1,000 richer. Take a look at the stellar menu Durham created for the competition — on the spot — and it’s easy to see why he was crowned the champ:
Appetizer: Pastry triangles with crimini duxelle, stir fry/salad mélange with crabmeat and chapulines (grasshoppers!), red chile oil scented with cumin and coriander and other spices.
Second course: Southern-fried chicken thighs with a twist on the traditional New Mexico “Christmas” chile combo. For the red, Durham created cranberry compote with chile morita (smoked red jalapeños). For the green component, he whipped up a sort of Waldorf salad (apples, walnuts, local goat’s cheese, a hint of habañero pepper and cilantro-lemon vinaigrette). Also on a plate: a chicken thigh with a walnut-shallot stuffing, chicken chicharrón, and a lemon brulée.
Dessert: Apple tamales with “gringo-mole” masa and apple crème anglaise and antelope-shaped sesame tuile cookies.