Giorgio Rapicavoli Wins Heart of a Chef Competition (Photos)

The constant weekend rain wasn't any deterrent for families seeking a fun and healthy way to spend Sunday evening, as they enjoyed good food and friendly competition at Heart of a Chef at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden last evening.

The annual event to benefit the Florida Heart Research Institute offered interactive exhibits for families, a cornucopia of healthful food samples from local restaurants and sponsors, interactive exhibits for kids, and winetastings for grownups.

The highlights of the evening were the two cooking competitions, both featuring local Miami rising stars in the culinary world. The Cook-Off Challenges presented Miami students and local chefs battling for top honors.

In a page from the Chopped playbook, each contestant or team was provided with a mystery basket of ingredients, as well as a table of healthful herbs, canned items, oils, and vegetables.

The first competition saw two local high schools -- Coral Gables High

School and MAST Academy -- compete in a team competition to prepare the

most delicious (and healthful) dish. The students, all from special

culinary arts programs at their schools, had 30 minutes to prepare a

delicious and healthful dish using mushrooms, red peppers, onions,

shallots, potatoes, lemons, green beans, pink beans, apples, chicken,

and cherry tomatoes.

The students took the competition seriously, using teamwork and some advanced knife skills to prepare their plates.

MAST Academy presented the judges with fiesta chicken -- a pan-seared chicken breast with a lemony salad of chickpeas and tomatoes.

Coral Gables High students prepared the winning dish -- a butterflied chicken with mashed potatoes, sautéed onions, and green beans.

The next competition featured two of Miami's hottest young culinary talents. Hells Kitchen alum Joshua Wahler from Crave Restaurant and Lounge was challenged to a culinary duel by Chopped champion Giorgio Rapicavoli from Eating House.

Both chefs were presented with a mystery basket, which included Parmigiano-Reggiano, couscous, sun-dried tomatoes, cauliflower, spinach, chickpeas, squash, and salmon.

Chef Rapicavoli chose dried cherries and wine to make a heart-healthy reduction for the pan-seared salmon.

Chef Wahler made creamy couscous to accompany his salmon dish.

Chef Wahler's salmon two ways featured a seared salmon over warm spinach and creamy couscous, topped with salmon tartare.

Chef Rapicavoli's winning dish paired salmon with a dried-cherry reduction (made with Truvia) over couscous, accompanied by pan-roasted cauliflower.

Chefs Wahler and Rapicavoli after their friendly competition.

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