PORTSMOUTH — Brian Jodoin thought he was being set up to lose, but he came out victorious Thursday in Atria Aquidneck Place’s third annual Chef’s Challenge.
Chef Jodoin, director of culinary services for the assisted living facility, went up against Fire Chief Michael Cranson and Police Patrolman Jack Clarke in the kitchen throwdown. Each competitor had to prepare a dish of their choice using a common ingredient: corn.
Chef Jodoin came up with a lobster and crab dish. “It’s like a cake that’s going to get pan-seared and thrown into the fryolator to get finished off. It will go on top of a black bean and pineapple relish,” he said while preparing his meal in Atria’s kitchen before judging outside in the courtyard.
Chief Cranson appeared confident while putting his dish together around the corner from Chef Jodoin.
“I’m making a mustardy grilled corn and sausage kabob. It’s gonna be great,” he said.
Next to him, Officer Clarke was busy making corn chowder and corn fritters. The patrolman said he does a lot of cooking at home.
“I’m a husband, father of two, and my wife works as a nurse, so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I’ve been cooking since I was a teenager,” he said, adding that he’s also worked as a line cook in restaurants.
Chief Cranson said cooking is second nature for most firefighters.
“Being on the fire department, one of the first things they teach us besides putting out fires and preventing fires is how to cook. We spend a lot of time together in the station and we learn very quickly to cook for a lot of people,” he said.
They usually choose what ever meal provides the biggest bang for the buck, the chief said.
“So, we do lasagnas, we do spaghetti and meatballs, we do meatloaf, meat and potatoes kind of stuff,” he said. “Although I will say, over the last few years there’s been a shift to really try and maintain a healthy diet and cook some low-fat, high-protein foods, so we’ve been doing a lot of grilled chicken, rice, beans — those kinds of meals.”
It’s not like that at the police station, Officer Clarke acknowledged.
“A lot of us eat on the run, with a lot of protein bars and fast food, unfortunately,” he said.
Before frying up his lobster/crab/corn cakes, Chief Jodoin was asked about his chances of winning.
“I can’t beat the cops and the firefighters,” he said, shaking his head. “That wouldn’t be fair. I knew that going into it.”
But surprise, surprise — the judges felt otherwise. Chef Jodoin took first place, with Officer Clarke in second and Chief Cranson in third. (The Police Department won last year, while the first contest in 2015 was declared a draw.)
Judges for the contest were Amy Manchester, Clements’ Marketplace’s catering manager; John Rodman, director of museum experience for the Newport Preservation Society; and Portsmouth Town Council member Linda Ujifusa.
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