Monday, March 4, 2013

And the Winner of The Wine Dive Challenge Is... Gary Gee!!!

"Oh boy! I have been struggling to put into words how elated I am about tonight's event at The Wine Dive. It has been a crazy but wonderful night. I share the honor not only with Sandra and Allison, but with all of the rest of the 37 Cooks. I've truly become a better cook because of all of you. The conversations, the sharing, the notes of encouragement, and above all, the challenges - all of this has fueled my passion for cooking. And all of you have made me strive to do what I love to do...and do it just a little bit better. So thank you. Thank you ALL. I humbly accept this honor on behalf of all of the 37 Cooks!” Gary Gee

Gary Gee's Award Winning Dish, Mussels with Spicy Pork Pasta, Wood Ear Mushrooms and Baby Bok Choy

Many of you have been following The Wine Dive Challenge for the past few weeks and you know what a fun-filled challenge this has been for 37 Cooks! We've all loved every minute of it! We sure hope you have too!

The Wine Dive challenge, to submit recipes cooked with wine, resulted in delicious recipes from our amazing cooks. All of these recipes, including Gary Gee's award-winner, can can be prepared in your own kitchen because the recipes are on our blog!

You may have seen the interview given by members of 37 Cooks and Chef Michael Obermeier from The Wine Dive on the day of the event, Friday, March 1. If not, we encourage you to check it out on the WFLX Fox 29 website!

We thought you would like to hear the thoughts of some of the 37 Cooks members who attended the event. They included:

Allison Donel: "I truly feel like we were there representing all of the 37 Cooks. The three of us never could have gotten there on our own. That event wouldn't have happened by just three recipes. It was all of the recipes that all of us have done from the beginning that snowballed into that moment. I was lucky enough to have been chosen to go, but I was surely standing on the shoulders of 36 other great cooks. Thanks to all of you for encouraging me, pushing me, challenging me, and making me a more adventurous, curious, and hopefully better cook."

Susan Ritchie: "I was really thrilled to attend The Wine Dive Final Challenge! The event happened to coincide with my trip to the Keys, so I decided to stop off in West Palm Beach to not only cheer for the Final Three, but to be the "official" photographer for the event. As one of the 37 Cooks, this opportunity had great personal gratification. I had already met Gary Gee in person and meeting Tracy Hersh, Sandra Simmons and Allison Donel was simply delightful! Actually, everyone I met while attending this event was fantastic. The folks at The Wine Dive are the nicest, most congenial people in the restaurant industry! Chef Michael, Chef Jeffrey and Chef Hector were so tolerant of the kitchen invasion!

When I had a moment to reflect back on the evening's festivities, I realized how much the members of 37 Cooks mean to me. We have all strived to deliver our best dishes with all of the challenges in which we participated. I am truly honored to be included with this group of cooks. I am inspired every day by the recipes I see from our cooks. I am so impressed with the enthusiasm and talent each member brings to our group. I believe this energy is reflected in the blog. We have so many dedicated individuals manning the positions to make our blog the great read we see each day.
It is difficult to put into writing the deep sense of satisfaction and joy I get from working with everyone at 37 Cooks, but I will say, I was delighted and smiling the entire time I was with my fellow cooks and The Wine Dive Staff!! Thank you for having me and thank you for such incredible hospitality!!"

Willie Simmons: "We had a great time in West Palm Beach and I am so proud of Sandra. She looked like a natural. The Wine Dive is a really cool place that focuses on food and wine “without being snooty”. Besides being a great after-work place, it is known for its weekend brunch that lasts from 10 to 3. The owner owns 5 restaurants and bars with different formats in a revitalized part of West Palm Beach, FL. The places are always full and his chefs were unbelievable. There were 6 members from the blog there and the chefs were teaching us and talking with us about their food styles and techniques. All 3 dishes will most likely end up on the menu of one of his places at some point because they were all incredible! Sandra’s pan seared scallops with roasted Brussels sprouts and cheddar beignet dish is amazing. I sure hope she cooks it again at home! Gary's winning dish was a wow dish. The third dish was mushroom ravioli using a red wine pasta. It was probably the best ravioli I have had."

Sandra Simmons: "There were countless amazing moments in the weekend 37 Cooks invaded West Palm Beach. I was so happy to be able to meet members I'd never met in person before and to catch up with members I've known for most of my life. The notes we received from the rest of the 37 Cooks members from around the United States and Canada were so supportive! We needed that! I'm not gonna lie - we were nervous for the television interview, shaking like leaves, in fact!! This was one of those events in life that you don't forget. I appreciate everyone who made it possible for me and all of the members of our group, whether they were physically present or not to participate in this challenge!!"

Guest judges included West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, Rachel Leigh of WFLX Fox 29, Bradley David, Executive Chef at Motor Yacht Top Five, Bill Foley of Cheney Brothers Inc., and Bridgette Weis of Southern Wine & Spirits. The event took place on March 1, 2013, at The Wine Dive, 319 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach, Florida from 6:30-8:00 p.m. The finalists included Allison Donel of Columbus, OH, Sandra Simmons of Atlanta, GA as well as our winner, Gary Gee of Houston, TX.  Willie Simmons, co-founder of 37 Cooks, gave opening remarks at the event on behalf of the group.

37 Cooks has so many people to thank for making this event happen. We want to especially thank John Webb, Sandra Lawson and Kat McGinley of The Wine Dive. Kat McGinley was especially instrumental in making this the stellar event it was. She worked night and day on it! We also want to thank Chef Michael Obermeier, Chef Jeff Whitney, Chef Hector Cordero and all of the kitchen staff at The Wine Dive! They were an incredible team and were so welcoming and willing to share their vast knowledge with our finalists. A big thank you to Melissa, who accompanied all of us to WFLX Fox 29 studios. Her professionalism helped calm our nervousness that day. We also want to thank all of the wait and bartending staff at The Wine Dive. What an incredible crew to put up with all of us!

We also loved all of the great people at WFLX Fox 29 including Producer Pedro and all of the newscasters who loved our food! One of them spooned some on a piece of paper and took it to eat later! Ha!

Most of all we would like to thank Tracy Hersh of 37 Cooks. Without her tireless efforts on the group's behalf there would have been no challenge. Thank you for all of your creativity, your infamous four hour phone calls and most of all your vision that brought this event to life.

In closing I'd like to share a comment I received after the event from Executive Chef Bradley David who was part of the panel of judges for The Wine Dive Challenge. He said, "37 Cooks is unique, fantastic, I love the premise, and whatever you do, NEVER EVER STOP!"

~Sandra Simmons, 37 Cooks

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