Chefs Challenge Promotes Compassion

Chef's Challenge is a celebration of Michigan products and the chefs that cook them as well as cooking seminars and demonstrations.

By: Megan Wilson, Contributing Writer 

It’s time to test your taste buds at the fifth annual Chef’s Challenge Charity Event hosted at Boyne Mountain.

Chef’s Challenge is a celebration of Michigan products and the chefs that cook them as well as cooking seminars and demonstrations.


The Chef’s Challenge is a product of the late Joe Breidenstein who started the event.

“Joe came up with the Freedom Festival in Petoskey, he loved to promote Michigan”, said Mike Hurchick, Executive Program Director of Challenge Mountain. “He traveled all over the state to promote Michigan and the Chef’s Challenge.”

On Friday night there will be a high school culinary competition from 6 p.m. To 9 p.m.

Schools from Boyne City, Petoskey, Whittemore Lake, and Marquette will be competing for a trophy made by Michigan Maple Block.

Saturday there will be seminars running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hosted by various chefs and businesses.

9:00am – 9:45am

Going All Out with Spring Produce

Presented by Barb Tholin, editor of Edible Grande Traverse

Beef Cooking Techniques

Presented by Chef Chris Gadulka of Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

Lavender Culinary Products and Uses

Presented by Jan Ruback of Lavender Hill Farms

10:00a.m. – 10:45a.m.

Farm to Table – Really!

Presented by Chef and local farmer, Mike Everts of Blackbird Gardens

Celebrating the Bounty of Michigan

Presented by Chef Ray Sierengowski of Meijer

Savoring Michigan’s Rich Foodie and Agricultural Industry

Presented by Dianna Stampfler, director of Promote Michigan

11:00a.m. – 2:00p.m.

Taste of Michigan Competition

Michigan Desserts


Chef Center-of-the-plate

A Center-of-the-plate competition is where each participant prepares appetizer-sized portions of a recipe featuring Michigan products; the only requirement is preparing 300 portions of their recipe.

“There will be people’s choice awards in each category, and we have Chef judges for each category to determine the Judges Award,” said Chris Kibit, the Taste and Cook Off Coordinator, and Chef’s Challenge Advisor. “The top two Chef Teams from the Center-of-the-plate will compete in a mystery basket (Iron Chef-Type) competition Saturday evening and have one hour to cook as many courses as they can using secret ingredients revealed at the dinner.”

2:30pm – 3:15pm

The 5 S’s of Wine

Presented by Ed Brehm of Boyne Country Provisions Wine Emporium and Market

The Art of Whiskey

Presented by Rich Blair of the New Holland Brewing Company

Techniques, Care and Cleaning of Cutlery and Cutting Boards

Presented by Jim Borchers of iMJN Enterprises

2:30pm – 4:00pm

Feeding your Mind, Body and Spirit – Being Fit Never Tasted So Good!

Presented by Professional Chef Michelle Bommarito

Michelle Bommarito is the celebrity emcee of Chef’s Challenge, and has also been featured on nine challenges on the Food Network Challenge since 2004.

Bommarito has also had a guest appearance on Martha Stewart Living in 2000 and been featured on the show Sugar Rush.

Bommarito has been taking part in this event since it’s inception, missing only one year due to a schedule conflict.

“This event is about promoting Michigan, and believing in our state and trying to make it happen,” said Bommarito. “We are herbs, hotels, restaurants – bringing an awareness to the great qualities of Michigan is what this is all about.”

When she is not emceeing events, Bommarito speaks on healthy living.

“I teach workshops and seminars to hospitals and health food stores, eating well program,” said Bommarito. “I practice feeding your mind, body, and spirit.”

Chef’s Challenge is responsible for approximately five percent of Challenge Mountain’s fundraising for the year.

Last year the event raised $11,000 and the organization is hoping that this year it will raise $25,000.

Challenge Mountain does not provide assistance exclusive to the Northern Michigan area.

“We have clients that come from Texas, Nova Scotia, we’ve had people come from Tanzania in the past,” said Hurchick.

This past winter, 900 clients and their families approached Challenge Mountain for help in some way.

The price for assisting a client varies with the degree of their needs, but they range anywhere from $250 to $4,000.

“Outriggers for a leg amputee are $400”, said Hurchick.

An outrigger is a ski pole that has a short ski on the end. It is usually used by an amputee or someone with low stability.

“A bi-ski or mono-ski is between $3,000 and $4,000 depending on the type and manufacturer,” said Hurchick.

“A tether and ski braw is about $250,” said Hurchick. “The braw is put on the tips of skis to keep them from crossing or going too far apart.”

These are used for individuals who have cognitive or stability issues.

The tether is attached to the ski braw, and the instructor can then control the direction and speed of the skier.

One such individual who came to Challenge Mountain last year was Lauren Presutti.

Lauren is a college student at Central Michigan University who wanted to go adaptive skiing.

Lauren has Muscular Dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair but is not letting anything get in her way.

“I Googled adaptive skiing and Challenge Mountain’s name came up,” said Presutti.

Lauren went to Challenge Mountain with a few of her friends several times this past winter.

Challenge Mountain’s mission statement is “If I can do this, I can do anything!”

Currently they are assisting clients with sailing, skiing, kayaking and canoeing, and biking.

“Currently Jeremy Wimpey PhD from Applied Trails Research is helping to design a new bike trail for us,” said Hurchick.

“The new trail is being built by 402 Trails, we are including the DNR in all our trail planning to ensure that it helps to solidify our trail system,” said Hurchick.

Public tasting tickets can be purchased for 8 for $25 and 4 for $15.

Chef’s Dinner tickets are $75.


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