In two recent chef’s challenges, Abbott’s Grill chefs brought home first place trophies, focusing a spotlight on the culinary talents in Milford. The Dogfish Head Throwdown and the Celebrity Chef’s Challenge pitted Kevin Reading, Paul Gallo and Andrew Hooven against award winning chefs throughout the state.
The Second Annual Dogfish Head Throwdown, held on Thursday, October 4 at Abbott’s Grill required participating chefs to create a menu item using a specific Dogfish Head beer. Paul Gallo of Abbott’s Grill, who drew the Dogfish 90 Minute IPA as his beer, created a 90 Minute glazed swordfish with almond ravioli and butternut squash with a pumpkin tapenade. Paul competed against Brenton Wallace of Nage, Dennis Marcoux of Dogfish Head, Ryan Cunningham of Harrington Raceway, Tom Deptual of Victoria’s and Tommy Long of Nalu and Whiskey Beach. Attendees sampled and voted for the winner of the event.
Paul began his culinary career busing tables, and continued working in restaurants while earning a degree in business. After college, he entered the banking industry, but aspired to own a restaurant. In his early 20’s, he began cooking, and eventually accepted a position at a large resort in Florida where he honed his skills as a chef.
“Much of my skills are self-taught from working in a variety of restaurants, and even working for free to develop new skills. I have been at Abbott’s Grill for about a year and I have doubled my knowledge working with Kevin,” Paul stated.
On Sunday, October 7, Kevin Reading, chef and owner at Abbott’s Grill, along with pastry chef, Andrew Hooven and Paul, participated in the final Chef’s Challenge at the annual Celebrity Chef’s Beach Brunch in Dewey Beach. The brunch is an annual fundraiser for Meals on Wheels, and last year’s event provided more than 65,000 meals for senior citizens in the state.
Kevin earned his way into the finals after edging out Andrew Feeley of Eden Restaurant and Bill Clifton of Henlopen City Oyster House in a preliminary competition, held at 16 Mile Brewing Company. The competition was patterned after the Food Network television show “Chopped,” where chefs receive a basket with secret ingredients and have 30 minutes to create a dish judged on presentation, creative use of ingredients and overall taste. Using corn on the cob, peaches, lump crabmeat and white chocolate, Kevin created a dish he called “Crab Confusion,” which included a gorgonzola-mustard gnocchi, peach, avocado and crab napoleon with a white chocolate and corn zabaglione.
At the final competition, Kevin competed against Becca Krebs of Salt Air, using a live lobster, cauliflower, star anise and 16 Mile Eastern Chef’s Brew. The 16 Mile ECB was created in collaboration with the chef’s as one of their Collaboration Brews for a Cause, a series of brews produced in limited quantities with a portion of the proceeds from each sale donated to Meals on Wheels.
“I hadn’t even closed the basket before I had an idea what I wanted to do,” Kevin said.
His 16 Mile spaetzle with a lobster and autumn vegetable ragout and seared quail egg, accompanied by Paul’s lobster ravioli with 16 Mile anise cream and pomegranate gatrique, as well as Andrew’s marscopone with anise and pomegranate crème glaze took the trophy. Judges for the event included Ken Bock of Cheer, Mark Turner of WSFS Bank, Pat Evans of Meals on Wheels and Clifton Holt, chef at Little Savannah.
Kevin, who has spent 35 years in the restaurant business, attended the Philadelphia Restaurant School, opening his first restaurant immediately after graduation. He even hired one of his professors to work with him in the restaurant in order to further hone his skills.
“I am proud of the fact that we are bringing more people to Milford to sample the culinary talents we have in this town,” Kevin said. “By winning these competitions, we are showing people that there are good chefs beyond the beach area.”
In addition to participating in the Chef’s Challenge, Kevin also donated a beachfront dinner for eight served at the Capano family oceanfront home on Cullen Street in Dewey Beach. The dinner includes wines to complement the dinner donated by Vintage Liquors, and will include a five to six course meal. The dinner was part of the live auction at the event, and raised $1,500 for Meals on Wheels.