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Dallas vs. Houston

Which one has the top chef?

Created date

May 17th, 2012

When Jason Foss, executive chef at Highland Springs, in Dallas, hopped on a plane bound for Houston, he wasn t headed south for a friendly site visit at another Erickson Living community. His trip was much more competitive in nature. Foss traveled to Eagle s Trace with one goal in mind to prove that Dallas is home to the top chef in Texas.

Cowboy cook-off

The communities modeled the matchup of Foss against Eagle s Trace Chef de Cuisine Garrett Lucas after popular cooking shows like Top ChefandChopped. Each chef had to prepare three southern favorites chicken fried steak, country gravy, and macaroni and cheese before a live audience. This should be interesting, Foss said before the show. I m a pastry chef by training, but I ve eaten a lot of chicken fried steak in my life. Three judges evaluated the chefs creations Marilyn Black, who lives at Eagle s Trace; Dan Wagner, another Eagle s Trace resident and former president of the resident advisory council; and Ben Cornthwaite, the community s new executive director.

An edge for Houston?

I m not sure this is fair, Foss said dubiously, eyeing the trio of Eagle s Trace judges. Dallas feels a little under-represented. But when the judges promised to consider the end result objectively, Foss set to work. First up macaroni and cheese. As the chefs worked at their individual cooking stations, they provided a running narrative of their efforts. I m adding a little saffron to my macaroni and cheese, said Lucas. It gives it a unique flavor. Not to be outdone, Foss jazzed up his macaroni and cheese with a prosciutto topping for added crunch.

All in good fun

The two chefs couldn t resist needling each other as they worked. Away from the competition, Foss and Lucas are friends and enthusiastic coworkers. Lucas worked at Highland Springs for a year under Foss before moving to his current position at Eagle s Trace. The two recently partnered to work on recipes for the new continuing care neighborhoods coming soon to both communities. Still, neither chef took anything for granted. My wife warned me not to eat or drink anything Garrett offered, Foss joked. She was worried he might try to poison me to improve his chances of winning. Light banter aside, each chef took his food preparation seriously, vying for a competitive edge. Lucas double-battered his chicken fried steak to give the exterior a pleasing crunch while keeping the meat moist. Foss emphasized the use of all fresh ingredients to create his meal. With the food finally prepared, the chefs presented their work to the judges, where it was scored in three categories: taste, presentation, and originality. For Cornthwaite, who recently moved from the Baltimore area to Houston, the cook-off marked his first taste of chicken fried steak. I can t believe I ve been missing this my whole life, he said. Sitting here watching these two chefs at work reminds me how fortunate we are to have them working in our Erickson Living kitchens. In the end, the panel of judges voted Garrett Lucas the top chef, beating out Foss by a slim margin. For all three judges, it was Lucas s chicken fried steak that clinched his victory. I think the double-battering made the difference, said Marilyn. You can find Foss s macaroni and cheese recipe on Facebook at facebook.com/ericksonliving.

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