During more than a decade of food writing, I’ve had the pleasure of judging a number of notable food contests, including the Gilroy Garlic Cook-Off, the Castroville Artichoke Festival Cook-Off, the short-lived “Food Fight” TV show competition, and of course, the Pillsbury Bake-Off.
So when I told my friends that I had been asked recently to judge a cook-off at a San Jose nursing home, I got more than a few odd looks.
But I have a soft spot for the work nursing homes do, as my late Mom spent her last weeks in one. I’m familiar with the challenges these facilities face, given the dietary and budgetary constraints they must work with.
So I was intrigued when Cindy Dahl, a registered dietitian with Plum Healthcare Group and a former San Diego restaurateur, asked me to be on the judging panel for the “Top Plum Chef” competition. Cooks from Plum Healthcare Group’s 16 California facilities would battle by cooking a specific dish. The winners advance to the next round, where they cook another specific dish. The two finalists then will square off in a cook-off in San Diego for a chance to win $500, a set of knives, a plaque, and bragging rights.