Graham takes regional Hop Chef Challenge title
By Bill Dowd
Times Union Blog: Dowd on Drinks
July 12, 2013
ALBANY — Mark Graham of Max London’s in Saratoga Springs squeaked past Yono Purnomo of Yono’s in Albany in an incredibly tight battle for first place and a spot in the national finals of the Ommegang Hop Chef Challenge.
The Albany area regional competition among seven chefs was held Friday night at the Albany Hilton. Other regional tests, sponsored by Brewery Ommegang and Saveur magazine, are held in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. The regional winners will face off in August during the brewery’s “Belgium Comes to Cooperstown” festival.
A portion of the proceeds from the Albany competition will benefit Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT), a non-profit dedicated to helping victims of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, which devastated the Schoharie Creek Basin late last summer.
Graham and Purnomo actually tied in average points from the six-judge panel, and it took a detailed discussion to break the tie. Ian O’Leary of The Ginger Man in Albany finished third, another placing that required detailed discussion after he tied with Dimitrios Menagias of the City Beer Hall in Albany behind Graham and Purnomo.
I was one of the judges, along with the Times Union’s Steve Barnes; Dave Gardell, owner of The Ruck in Troy; Karen Shimizu, senior editor at Saveur magazine; culinary instructor and chef Haley Stevens Miller of the Saratoga Olive Oil Co., and Scott Veltman of Brewery Ommegang.
Will Brown of Mazzone Hospitality won the People’s Choice award by a vote of several hundred people attending the food and beer sampling event. The other competitors were Brady Dillon of The Merry Monk and Ali Benamanti of the Henry Street Tap Room in Saratoga Springs.
Each chef was assigned a particular Ommegang beer to incorporate into their dishes, with points awarded on presentation, taste, creativity, matching the flavor profile of the beer with the dish, incorporating the beer into the cooking process and storytelling; i.e., telling the story of how the dish was created.