As chefs Doug Ruley and Robbie Jester took the stage, there was a frisson of excitement for guests at the second Southern Delaware Wine, Food and Music Festival at the clubhouse at Independence, a Schell Brothers community in Millsboro. The first North versus South Chef Throw Down, a competition like the television show "Chopped," had begun.
Representing the south, Ruley is vice president of SoDel Concepts, which has nine beach-area restaurants. Jester is the executive chef at Stone Balloon Ale House in Newark. He's also the winner of "Beat Bobby Flay," and he's been a two-time contestant on "Guy's Grocery Games."
When the smoke cleared, Ruley was declared the winner for his crabmeat hash, made with Manchego cheese and Anson Mill white grits and a Nocello-candy corn butter jus. It was all topped with a sunny-side-up egg. Jester made a semolina-fried crab cake with walnut-scented bacon-Brussels sprouts-pumpkin hash and Old Bay frozen yogurt.
"Doug demonstrated yet again that he is an amazing chef," said Scott Kammerer, president of SoDel Concepts. "This competition also shows how well Doug performs in a stressful situation: he stays remarkably cool under fire."
Ruley enjoyed the friendly competition. "It was a blast going up against a chef as talented as Robbie," he said.
Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism; Bryan Shupe, the mayor of Milford; and Chris Rausch, sales manager at the Cape Gazette; served as judges. "The event went down better than I could ever have expected," said Stacy LaMotta, the festival organizer. "The ballroom was packed with attendees and other chefs dying to see what was going to happen. Everyone had a lot of fun seeing this live action-packed event."
SoDel Concepts was a title sponsor of the festival, which featured local restaurants whose dishes were paired with wine and spirits. "All the participating chefs brought their A game to the event," Ruley said. "It was an amazing afternoon."
Kammerer said, "We want to thank Schell Brothers for providing the perfect venue for the festival. We're looking forward to next year's event."