Three days of cooking competitions were a big hit with attendees

Published in the August 8 – 21, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Photo courtesy Gilroy Garlic Festival * Six-year-old Addyson Dell, left, with her mother Leslie Dell, cooks her award-winning Garlic Mac N Cheese with Crispy Garlic Chicken Tenders and Roasted Asparagus, taking home a $500 notebook computer.

Foodies and families came to Christmas Hill Park from near and far for the 40th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. The annual celebration of the glory of garlic included traditional favorites such as the mouth-watering dishes from Gourmet Alley that have been a staple since the inaugural festival in 1979. This year saw the introduction of the first-ever signature cocktail, the Garlic Festival Mule, which proved so popular that it sold out during the three-day event.

A total of 80,646 guests attended the July 27, 28, and 29, festival organizers said in a press release. Visitors included representatives from Gilroy’s sister city Takko-Machi, Japan, along with several hundred Bay Area residents who rode into town on the Caltrain Garlic Train Saturday and Sunday.

More than 4,000 community volunteers from the South Valley region worked hard to make this year’s festival “a tremendous success,” 2018 Gilroy Garlic Festival President Todd Trekell said.

“We had a great, easy-going crowd of garlic lovers enjoying garlicky gourmet food and live music — as well as new experiences like the Electric Clove Dance Tent and the Garlic Festival Mule cocktail,” he said. “It was a thrill to welcome legends like Iron Chef Michael Symon and Olympic Champion Brian Boitano to join in our celebration. And our new ‘Herbie’ mascot was a huge hit too!”

Competition in concocting dishes using the stinking rose as an ingredient entertained crowds who gathered at the Challenge Butter Cook-Off Stage to witness the amateur and professional chefs put together their ingredients for savory fare.

Amateur chef Will Simbol from New York City claimed the coveted garlic crown — and a $5,000 cash prize — as winner of the 2018 Great Garlic Cook-Off  Saturday, July 28. The annual recipe contest was hosted by Olympic Champion and TV personality Brian Boitano.

Simbol beat out seven other finalists from around America with his original recipe, Savory Crunchy Freshy Tangy Shrimpy Herby Garlic Lumpia Wrap.

Second place and a $2,500 prize was awarded to Lidia Haddadian for Roasted Garlic and Potato Pierogis w/Garlic Shallot Bacon Jam. Third place and $1,000 went to Leah Lyon for A-MAIZ-in Garlic-Chili Buttered Rose’ Lobster Tails with Flamenco Pesto. The remaining contestants each received $100. All contestants prepared their own original recipes containing at least six cloves of garlic.

Six-year-old Addyson Dell won the inaugural Garlic Chef Jr. competition. She needed a stool to reach the stove but still wowed the judges with her Garlic Mac N Cheese with Crispy Garlic Chicken Tenders and Roasted Asparagus. As the first-place winner, she went home with a new notebook computer valued at $500 — and ultimate kitchen bragging rights.

Hosted by MasterChef Season 7 Winner Shaun O’Neale, this new event required each child-chef contestant to create one baked or grilled dish containing at least six cloves of garlic. A panel of expert judges evaluated each dish for taste, appearance, creativity, and use of garlic.

Son of Smoke won Overall Grand Champ and $2,000 in the Gilroy Garli-Que BBQ Challenge on Saturday, July 28. Big Poppa Smokers was named Reserve Champ and won a total of $1,000.

Contestants in the Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS) sanctioned event competed in five categories (Chicken, Pork Ribs, Pork Shoulder, Beef Brisket, and “Anything Goes with Garlic”), which were evaluated by a panel of KCBS judges. Festival guests who sampled the BBQ fare also voted to determine the People’s Choice award for each category.

First place winners were: Chicken: Son of Smoke (Tracy, CA); Pork Ribs: Son of Smoke from Tracy); Pork: Sharpe Gourmet Cooking Wood from Orange; Beef Brisket: Bar-B-Cuda BBQ from Hayward); Anything Goes with Garlic: Son of Smoke from Tracy.

John Campbell and Morgan Sanders from AMR Santa Clara County were the victors for the second year in a row in the Gilroy Garlic Festival Champions for Charity cooking challenge on Friday, July 27. It featured four teams of local first responders and military heroes competing to win $3,000 for their favorite charity. AMR Santa Clara County will be donating their winnings to Alzheimer’s Association.

The teams had to prepare dishes in three elimination rounds: Appetizer, Entrée, and Dessert. The other teams included chefs representing the South Santa Clara County Fire / CAL Fire, San Jose Fire Department, and the U.S. Army.