Let us remember the happy memories to fight the horror of a mass shooting

In challenging times following an act of evil, human nature sometimes makes us fall into the trap of forgetting there is still good in the world. In the aftermath of the violence that happened with the shooting at this year’s Gilroy Garlic Festival, let us not forget that there was still plenty of joy and laughter and food and fun enjoyed by tens of thousands of guests served by more than 4,000 volunteers that will contribute dollars to local nonprofits, school groups and sports teams. I’d like to take a healing moment in this column to put a spotlight on the chefs who competed on the Challenge Butter Cook-Off Stage.

This kid can cook! Twelve-year-old Kaiden Gonzalez of Gilroy won the second annual Garlic Chef Jr. competition with his recipe for Papa’s Crab Cakes and Good Fortune Spring Rolls. As the first place winner, he goes home with a new notebook computer valued at $500.

The competition was hosted by “MasterChef” winner Gerron Hurt. Each contestant had 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.

Other contestants were:

  • Spencer Arpajian, 15, from Portola Valley, with Spencer’s Spanish Fiduea with Grilled Bread with Garlic Tomato Paste
  • Lucy Fassl, 12, from Martinez with Lucy’s Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
  • Rayen Garcia, 11, from Gilroy with Gilroy Garlic-Infused Empanada with Spanish Rice and Plantain Chips
  • Winston James, 13, from Gilroy with Garlic Chicken Curry with Rice Pilaf and Garlic Raitha
  • Brandon Makiyama, 11, from San Jose Brandon’s Fried Rockfish Puttanesca and Green Beans
  • Sandra Jissel Martinez, 10, from Gilroy with Creamy Garlic Pastry
  • Maya Torres, 13, from Gilroy with Garlic Steak Quesadilla with Chimichuri and Pico de Gallo

Amateur chef Gary Exner from Wilsonville, Oregon, claimed the coveted garlic crown — and a $3,000 cash prize — as winner of the 2019 Great Garlic Cook-Off. The 41st annual recipe contest was hosted by “Top Chef” head judge Tom Colicchio on the Challenge Butter Cook-Off Stage.

Exner beat out seven other finalists from around the country with his original recipe, “Strawberry Tart with Garlic Shiso Cream and Yuzu Glaze.”

Second place was awarded to Merry Graham for Garlicky BBQ Pork Fluffy Japanese Pancake with Strawberry Sritacha Syrup. Third place was awarded to Robyn Price for CoCoa-Coffee Crusted Garlic & Bacon Cheesecake with Caramel Drizzle. Other contestants were Ellen Rivera of Gilroy with Ribeye Triple Garlic Coconut Rice Bowl with Zippy Sauce; Emily Falke of Santa Barbara with Chilies en Nogada with Roasted Garlic Walnut Sauce; Kim Banick of Turner, Ore