RUTLAND-A little bit of creativity can take you a long way.
In the case of Rutland resident Peter Weisberger, creativity in
the kitchen took him to the fourth annual Hood New England Dairy
Cook-Off, where his braised rabbit with wild mushroom curry cream
sauce took the second prize in the lunch and dinner category.
"I thought I could enter with this crazy idea," Weisberger said.
"Then one night I got a call saying I was a semi-finalist. They
gave me the information, including where I was staying. They paid
Weisberger said he learned about the cook-off watching the TV
program "TV Diner with Billy Costa," a food review program
combining cooking with visiting various eating establishments
throughout New England.
"I felt really good about my chances, but somebody else won the
$10,000," Weisberger said. "I was the only one in my category from
Vermont. My prize wasn't much, only a couple of hundred dollars. I
had the winner from last year and the M.C. pulling for me. They'd
never heard of braised rabbit."
Wesiberger said he felt he could have taken the top prize, but
flubbed his presentation.
"When it came to presentation, I thought it was just the plate,"
he said, "but I had to get in front of a microphone and explain it.
My presentation was terrible."
The initial idea came easily, he said.
"My best friend is from India, and that gave me the ides for the
curry," Weisberger said. "In Vermont there are so many wild
rabbits, and plenty of growers, so I thought I'd just try it
The cook-off was held on Oct. 21, with 30 people competing. Mary
Jo Fletcher LaRocco of North Kingston, R.I. took the top
prize with her dessert, cranberry limoncello tarts in a gingersnap
The judges -- Michele Ragussis, finalist, Next Food Network
Star; Peggy Poole, Ph.D., Vice President of Quality Systems and
Regulatory Affairs with HP Hood; Linda Beaulieu, author, Providence
and Rhode Island Cookbook; Chef Branden Lewis, instructor, Johnson
and Wales University; and Cindy Salvato, IACP Cooking Teacher of
the Year Finalist 2003 and ACF Certified executive pastry chef --
decided that LaRocco's dessert best combined the qualities of
taste, presentation/appearance, and originality.
Competitors were divided into five categories: breakfast and
brunch, soups and chowders, appetizers and side dishes, lunch and
dinner (entrée), and dessert. One person from each New England
state competed in each category. Competitors had 60 minutes to
prepare and plate their dishes. Winners from each category went on
to compete in the finals later that evening.
Besides Weisberger, the other Vermont residents who competed
were (Joy Kipp of St. Albans, - creamy pumpkin gluten-free pancakes
(breakfast and brunch);Carolyn Wheel of Fairfax, simply smart
seafood chowder (soups and chowders); Forrest White of Williston,
acorn squash 'n blossom fritter with vichyssoise shooter
(appetizers and side dishes) and Kevin Wheel of Fairfax, apple
crepes with warm buttermilk syrup (dessert).
The cook-off was taped
for television and will appear as an episode of "TV Diner,"
"I'll be going back next year," he said. "I already have an idea
for what I'm going to make."
For information on next year's event, go to www.hood.com.