Last week, work took me to the Encore resort in Las Vegas for the 'Top Turkey' showdown: a cooking competition taped in front of a live audience for the Regis and Kelly show airing the day after Thanksgiving. The challenge for the competitors was to create two dishes using Thanksgiving leftovers. The kicker was a 25 minute time limit. Anyone who has watched a quickfire challenge on Top Chef knows that's precious little time for just one dish, let alone two. But these are serious competitors: Paul Bartolotta, Alex Stratta and Hubert Keller -- three phenomenal chefs hungry for this prized trophy and the prestigious title of Top Turkey.
Backstage in Turkey Battleground, Chef Paul Bartolotta cracked open the top-shelf secret ingredient in his tasty turkey cakes: lite beer.
Chef Alex Stratta made fresh pasta for his pumpkin ravioli dish....
And Chef Hubert Keller whipped up fancy pumpkin pie milkshakes and a turkey cappucino.
I snuck down to the audience to watch the judging portion of the show. Regis pretty much left the tasting to Kelly, who -- tiny, hyper-fit gal that she is -- didn't have nearly enough time to relish the dishes as much as she would've liked. The three audience members cum guest judges seemed to find the experience a little, well, overwhelming. However, they pulled through and in the end, the scoring was VERY close.
Ultimately, Chef Alex Stratta reigned supreme. As Top Turkey, he gets to proudly place that regal, one-of-a-kind trophy on the mantel among his collection of Michelin stars and James Beard awards. Truly a proud moment for Chef Stratta, to be sure.
As for my part, it was a blast working with the chefs and all the Regis & Kelly posse. I must confess that until I started working in Las Vegas, it was not a town I frequented. These days, I look forward to the royal treatment: gorgeous resort room, amazing meals (including the in-room dining - thanks, James!), reserved tables at clubs, chauffeured grocery shopping and wonderful staff make for a very enjoyable work gig indeed!