By GWEN SISSON
Chef Daniel Weldon of The Grill has been experimenting with his winning dish for several years.
And Saturday night, the hard work paid off. Weldon won the Judges Choice Award for Taste and the overall Peopleâ€™s Choice Award at the Starkville Area Arts Councilâ€™s Forks and Corks event.
Ticket holders gave top votes to the Pecan Crusted Sea Bass served over shiitake mushrooms and a smoked gouda risotto layered with a scallop and lump crabmeat stuffing and topped with a lemon capper buerre blanc. It is not on the menu at The Grill, but fans at Forks and Corks hope that will change soon.
Weldon said this honor could not have happened without the help of his team, Wilma Spencer and Leonard Smith, and his wife. Weldon said if it wasnâ€™t for his wife, he would not be in the Golden Triangle area, sharing his love of food.
Originally from Destin, Fla., Weldon enjoys creating new seafood dishes. And Saturday night, several people in the crowd commented that Weldonâ€™s fish dishes are excellent, and this was no exception.
â€śThis type of thing is why I am a chef,â€ť Weldon said. â€śI love the opportunity to get my food to the public and show my creativity.â€ť
Five of Starkvilleâ€™s best chefs prepared an original dish and served a tasting to a crowded house at the Tilt Wine and Dessert Bar upstairs at the State Theatre Saturday night. The crowd was asked to sample all of the dishes and vote on their favorite for the title of â€śBest of Forks and Corks,â€ť which was given to Weldon.
Three judges also sampled the food at each table, placing their votes based on taste, presentation and originality.
The judges gave the Best Presentation Award to Chef Gregg Frazier, corporate chef for Eat With Us Group, representing Harveyâ€™s Restaurant. The Judges Award for Originality went to Restaurant Tyler. Weldon won Best Taste.
Michelle Amos, one of the coordinators for this yearâ€™s event, was happy with the turnout, and the incredible food at Forks and Corks.
â€śEverything was fabulous,â€ť Amos said. â€śAnybody who was not here really missed out on a great time.â€ť
Robin Fant, president of the SAAC and one of the coordinators for Forks and Corks, agreed that the crowd and the food were amazing.
â€śIt is great to see so many people turn out to celebrate the culinary arts in this community,â€ť Fant said. â€śIt is a hidden art, in many cases. Several years ago, no one talked about culinary arts. But what a great opportunity to showcase the culinary talent and artistry in this community.â€ť
Forks and Corks, formerly Starshine, is a fund raiser for the SAAC to help provide arts scholarships and programming throughout the year. For more information about SAAC, go to the website at http://www.starkvillearts.org.