Well, he was able to raise enough money to travel out to represent Music City last weekend against a roster of others chefs from around the country in this multi-round elimination event. Chefs traveled from as far away as Boston to compete in cooking skills events as well as several rounds of dish preparation, some of which demanded the use of last minute secret ingredients.
The judging panel was quite esteemed with Colman Andrews, the founder of Saveur, and Barbara Fairchild, the former editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit, scoring the chefs on skills like onion dicing, chicken butchery and tournée cutting a pile of potatoes. Chef Frohne, who was born with fingers missing from his right hand, demonstrated remarkable knife skills under pressure and advanced through the skills competitions to the cooking portion of the event.
As a small crowd of supporters looked on (this was Friday morning in Vegas, after all ... not everybody was awake yet), Frohne received his first assignment form the judges. The cheftestants were split into flights of six to prepare a "Twisted Eggs Benedict." Frohne took the "twisted" part to heart, creating a pasture egg benedict with charred pepper romesco, fried hollandaise, grass-fed fed beef, oyster mushroom and watercress. The result of his mad scientist kitchen alchemy wowed Andrews and Fairchild and pushed him on to the next food challenge ingredient, salmon.
While the rest of the competitors made some sort of grilled salmon during this 30-minute challenge, Frohne threw down the gauntlet with a salmon boudin blanc with eggplant and corn ravigote, crispy pancetta and saffron essence. Making sausage is always challenging; attempting it outdoors on essentially a camp stove in half an hour is crazy.
Crazy like a fox apparently, because this dish propelled Frohne into the semifinals, assuring him of taking home at least $1,600 in prize money. Saturday's semifinals were divided into two divisions of four chefs, with only one advancing from each flight into the finals. The chefs spent the evening menu-planning, knowing that their primary protein would be duck. The next morning they discovered that they were required to use a secret ingredient, Dijon Mustard. (Did I mention Kraft Foods was a major sponsor of the event?)
Frohne's duck dish was a play off porchetta. His "ducketta" was a fennel pollen and orange-rubbed boneless breast, sliced thin and served with curried pumpkin and Asian pear, black cherry glacé de viande and over a cauliflower purée. I was fortunate enough to taste a little sample of this, and it was among the best duck dishes I've ever used. Frohne, who cooks at Rutland Place Senior Community in Mt. Juliet, probably doesn't always get to show off his advanced culinary chops during his day gig, but he really shines during the competitions that he enters.
Ultimately, Frohne did not advance to the finals, leaving Vegas with his $1,600 in prize money and the knowledge that he acquitted himself very well in front of a group of older, more experienced chefs, one of whom had been a competitor on Gordon Ramsey's Master Chef. He certainly has nothing to be disappointed about or ashamed of. Well, at least not during the competition. I can't personally speak to what happened during those crazy Vegas nights because you know what they say about what happens in Vegas...