On Wednesday, August 31st, Plymouth Harbor’s Chef René Weder, Sous Chef Carlos Morales, and Lead Cook Franco Valencia participated in the The Best of The Best of the ALFs – A Culinary Extravaganza.
More than 200 people attended the first-time event, which was hosted by the Sarasota County Aging Network (SCAN) and held at Sahib Shriners Auditorium from 4:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m. SCAN is a not-for-profit coalition of individuals and agencies that represent health, education, and social service organizations advocating for seniors in our community.
More than 20 local Assisted Living Facilities and Continuing Care Retirement Communities attended the event, competing in their choice of the following categories: Hot Hors d’oeuvres, Cold Hors d’oeuvres, Pasta Dishes, and Luscious Desserts.
Plymouth Harbor’s team had the honor of winning first place in the Hot Hors d’oeuvres category. The winning dish? Seared sea scallops served with lobster sauce and forbidden rice — a black rice that used to be considered so superior and rare, it was reserved exclusively for royalty in ancient China.
Chef René and his team chose the Hot Hors d’oeuvres category because it offered the broadest variety when it came to preparing a dish. The sea scallops were chosen for several reasons: a simple yet elegant dish, scallops also tend to be a crowd pleaser. Additionally, the use and story behind the “forbidden rice” created quite the buzz among the attendees.
“When you attend a large event like this, it’s always nice to create something that not only tastes good, but also serves as a conversation piece,” says Chef René.
The event was judged by several “celebrity judges,” including local chefs: Chef Christian Hershman (a culinary consultant), Chef George Armstrong (of The Rosemary), Chef Rolf (of Salt Water Café), and Chef Paul Mattison (of Mattison’s City Grille, Mattison’s Bayside, and Mattison’s Forty-One).
The proceeds from the event benefited the SCAN grant program, which assists Sarasota County seniors. In addition to supporting a worthy cause, it offered the opportunity to discredit the stigma that comes with dining at assisted living facilities and retirement communities.
“In this industry, people have the idea that we only offer institutional food,” says Chef René. “Collectively, we were able to show that this is absolutely not the case, and we hope to be able to participate in the event again next year.”