Chefs square off in cooking contest

By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
Windsor Regional - posted Wed., Nov. 14, 2012
Rob Maffucci, owner and chef of the Vito's Restaurants, introduces the mystery ingredients to contestants Kimberly Coccomo and Robert Lewis during the third round of the 'So You Think You Can Cook' contest. Photos by Colin Rajala.
Rob Maffucci, owner and chef of the Vito's Restaurants, introduces the mystery ingredients to contestants Kimberly Coccomo and Robert Lewis during the third round of the 'So You Think You Can Cook' contest. Photos by Colin Rajala.

Sunday mornings inside the Vito’s By the Water restaurant are typically quiet and calm, with chefs prepping ingredients and planning for the afternoon rush, but on Nov. 11 the calm of the kitchen was overtaken with a raucous and frantic pace as the four finalists in the "So You Think You Can Cook" contest vied for the two final spots in the competition.

“I was expecting that the stepped-up stress would take a toll, and it really pushed these guys to their limits,” said Rob Maffucci, owner and chef of the Vito’s Restaurants. “Different people react differently under stress.  Some thrive on it and use it to power them forward, as we saw with a couple.  Others get overwhelmed when things start crashing and, literally, burning.”

The contest's final four competitors were: Asa Fish, a self-taught cook; Joe Polkey, cafeteria manager at Sage Park Middle School; Robert Lewis, restaurant chef; and Kimberly Coccomo, a chef at a senior living center. The third round of the competition required the competitors to cook an appetizer and entrée in 45 minutes while using four mystery ingredients: sausage, pumpkin, pasta sheets and eggplant. Coccomo and Lewis competed valiantly, preparing friend wontons, lasagna, a napoleon, and fried ravioli using the mystery ingredients, while Fish and Polkey waited for their chance to shine. Under the pressure of the clock, Fish failed to use two of the mystery ingredients in his chicken and pasta dishes, while Polkey presented a pasta purse and an eggplant stack.

Coccomo, Lewis and Polkey will anxiously wait to see who the judges select to become finalists. To see who the finalists for the contest will be, visit www.vitosct.com, where you can also see an episode of their performances in the kitchen and the judges' thoughts on their food. The two finalists will meet at Vito’s By the Park on Dec. 1 to prepare an entrée with mystery ingredients in 30 minutes, as well as a dessert in 20 minutes. 

“My expectations are that the final two will really step up their game,” Maffucci said. “I expect them to let their personalities and their cooking flair really shine.  They will be under some intense stress and pressure.”


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