WORCESTER — Eating good sushi may bring a smile, but preparing it has Chef Wilson Wang of Baba Sushi on Park Avenue grinning.
“Everyone wants to work with him,” Jes Chan of Baba Sushi said. “He’s a lot of fun.”
His sushi impressed the judges at yesterday’s Worcester’s Best Chef competition, held at Mechanics Hall, as he took home top honors in the Judge’s Pick category.
“He did a three-way sushi dish and there were different flavors in each piece of fish,” said Chef Barry Sexton of Philadelphia, who’s been featured on Food Network’s “Dinner Impossible.”
Baba Sushi also served up a quail egg, caviar and oyster “shot,” a satisfying, flavorful treat for sashimi lovers.
Chef Sexton also loved a salmon dish served up by Feng Asian Bistro in the Shoppes at Blackstone Valley. The dish netted Chef Jared Calderone second place with the judges.
Chef Alina Eisenhauer of Sweet Pastry Shop and Wine Bar in Worcester also liked the salmon and said it showed good technique. She’s been featured on Food Network’s “Chopped” and will appear on “Cupcake Wars.”
At age 27, Chef Calderone owns five restaurants in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He said he started cooking at age 14 and while he’s young, he is a stiff competitor who hardly stops moving and adapted quickly when his burner failed during the Iron Chef competition, which was the next step after placing in the Judge’s Favorites category.
His staff said they serve up fusion food, a combination of various styles and elements. Chef Calderone said he takes a whimsical approach and enjoys working with modern flavors.
But it was Chef Tim Quinn of the Oliver Wight Tavern at Old Sturbridge Village who won the Iron Chef, perfectly executing a scallop dish with Brussels sprouts and parsnips. He placed third in the judges’ category.
The event featured more than 30 competitors. Hundreds of people roamed the displays sampling food and voting for their favorites. Billy Costa of KISS 108 Boston and NECN’s TV Diner served as master of ceremonies and fed the raucous atmosphere of the fast-moving Iron Chef competition as folks watched.
Robert and Lori Lemieux said they loved the food from BT’s Smokehouse in Sturbridge.
Chef Brian Treitman spent hours preparing slow smoked beef, collard greens, grits and red-eye gravy. He topped the meat with pickled cabbage for a dish his staff said is made “with a whole lot of love.”
And plenty of people loved it back, voting it into third place in the People’s Choice category. Chef Wang took second and Mark Hawley of The Flying Rhino Café on Shrewsbury Street clinched the top spot.
The WXLO People’s Choice winner was Chef Christiana Ernst of Via Alto 27 in Clinton. She served one of the more unusual sweet treats — Pane E Salame — a crisp, light Italian dessert that looks like salami on bread but is made with chocolate and cookies.
“It’s just enough chocolate,” Robin Stewart of Via Alto 27’s staff said.
There were wines and beers to sample, Polar beverages to wash down strawberries drizzled with white chocolate and beef cooked with cherries.
For those who attended the event, the food sampling can continue if they save their wristbands from the event. All of the participating restaurants are offering $5 off per person throughout February, with some restrictions. And the event’s Web site: www.worcestersbestchef.com, welcomes comments and suggestions for next year’s event.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the college scholarship program for culinary students at Worcester Technical High School in Worcester.