Pageo Lavender Farm in Turlock is getting set to welcome food lovers from far and wide on Thursday as the third annual Turlock Gospel Mission Tournament of Chefs will be taking place. This year’s highly anticipated competition — formerly known as Turlock Top Chef — will feature four food trucks from across the Turlock area as they battle it out to determine who is the best chef around.
“Each year, we have a number of chefs compete,” explained Turlock Gospel Mission CEO Christian Curby. “This year, we have four great chefs… Everybody's got really amazing creative ideas and they’re bringing that they think will help push them over the top.”
The four participants in this year’s competition are Tito’s Parilla of Turlock, Phantom’s Food Truck of Atwater, Fagundes Street Pizza of Manteca and a truck specializing in barbecue also out of Manteca.
The event is more than just about food, though. Curby explained that the annual event serves as a fundraiser to benefit the development a new job readiness program within the organization, Nourish. Nourish looks to provide those participating in Turlock Gospel Mission recovery programs with a high-quality, no-cost student culinary education. The program seeks to prepare students for a successful life beyond homelessness. Students work with local chef instructors, and staff program coaches to develop marketplace skills, as well as with shift supervisors and mentors to develop the soft skills necessary to be successful in today’s high-demand job market.
“The program that we’re developing is adjunct to our recovery programming, and other programming we already do, but one of the things we really recognize is that many of our clients who are young, able bodied and capable are likely going to need steady work for many, many years in the future,” Curby said. “And so, as we've been working with these individuals and helping them develop the ability to stay in sobriety amongst other things, we recognize some need for helping them gain more impactful employment and aiming them at a brighter economic future, and so this event is really sort of reflective of that program.”
In terms of the competition, the participating chefs will be judged by a panel based of a number of criteria. Guests will also have an opportunity to fill their stomachs as they too can sample the culinary creations before the big winner is announced at the end of the night. And aside from satisfying cravings, Curby explained that attendees will also be treated to other forms of family fun throughout the night.
“We're at Pageo Lavender Farms and it's just an extraordinary venue. There's a photo booth, there’s live music, it’s just a great evening of food and beverage,” Curby said. “We'll also have a small presentation where we're going to introduce one of our amazing staff members who is formerly homeless, we’re going to introduce the culinary program that we've been working on and introduce our food truck, there will be a silent auction… It’s mostly just a fun evening of hanging out, seeing friends and other members of the community all while supporting a really great cause.”
While Curby admitted that it may seem like a very relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, things start to really heat up as the culinary competition winds down.
“The first year in 2019, the last three minutes of the competition were literally three of the most exciting minutes of my life,” he said. “I mean, when they were finishing up against the clock, the whole crowd kind of pushed up against that the ropes and watched these chefs work under the high pressure. I mean, it was amazing.”
The tournament will be taking place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday. Tickets to the event are still available to purchase, with general admission prices starting at $50. Tickets can be purchased online at www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/MTU5NTE1.
“Just think it's an amazing event,” Curby said. “It's just a really, really great time with lots of fun and good food.”
To learn more about the Turlock Gospel Mission, head to their website at www.turlockgospelmission.org.