Livermore Mayor, Wente Chef Matt Greco Win Mayors’ Healthy Cook-Off Challenge


Six Alameda County mayors and chefs cooked and toiled for two hours in a live cooking contest to promote healthy foods. In the end, the wine may have made the winning difference.

To be sure, it was a local wine.

Pouring a crisp Wente chardonnay into their dish, chef Matt Greco, of the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, and Livermore Mayor John Marchand teamed up with the winning dish at the first Alameda County Mayors' Healthy Food Cook-Off Challenge.

"It was the wine and a very creative Wente chef that made the difference," Marchand said of his team's victory. "Not me. Then again, I did help explain how the different tastes complemented each other."

Dublin's and Hayward's team tied for second.

Albany finished third to round out the four teams representing Alameda County later this year in a cook-off against the winners of a similar mayors' competition in Contra Costa County. Pleasanton and Fremont teams did not place in the cook-off.

Following the example of the "Iron Chef" television show, cook-off organizers provided the six Alameda County teams with fresh chicken, vegetables and fruits at the start of the competition. Each team had about two hours to plan and prepare a meal for a panel of 10 judges. Teams brought their own stoves, cooking oil, spices and flavorings. Once the contest began, the mayors left it to the pro chefs to run the show and give the orders.

"It's a friendly competition to promote healthy lifestyles," said Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti.

As he explained, he mashed produce in a big bowl under the direction of chef Jose Guevara from Johnny Garlic's.

"You get judged on creativity, taste, presentation and healthiness," Sbranti said. "We plan to make it an annual event."

To help his team, Chef Rhasaan Fernandez, of Sam's Log Cabin in Albany, trucked in a heavy grill so he could cook over a mesquite fire, while other contestants used gas stoves.

He said he isn't flustered

Marcus Castro, a recent Dublin High School graduate who studied at the culinary program there, joined the team preparing Dublin's food entry.

"It's good training," said Castro. He said he starts later this month at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

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The City of Livermore was victorious in the 1st annual “Alameda County Mayors’ Healthy Cook-Off Challenge,” which was held at the Dublin Farmers' Market on Thursday, July 25, 2013.

Mayors from six cities in Alameda County partnered with chefs from restaurants in their communities to participate “Iron Chef”-style in the cook-off. Mayor John Marchand of Livermore teamed up with Chef Matt Greco from The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards to create the winning recipe.

The Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association provided each chef with a bag of produce from the Farmers’ Market, while Grocery Outlet of Dublin provided a protein item and grains.

Nine judges, including four members of the Dublin community, and five student chefs from the Serendipity Cooking School at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, judged the dishes on taste, presentation, healthiness, and creativity.

The City of Dublin and the City of Hayward tied for second place, while third place went to the City of Albany. The winning teams will compete this fall against the top three winners from the “Contra Costa County Mayors’ Healthy Cook-Off Challenge,” which was held on July 18. They will meet in a cook-off at the Serendipity Cooking School in October.

The goal of the “Mayors’ Healthy Cook-Off Challenge,” co-sponsored by Wellness City Challenge in Concord, is to highlight the importance of healthy eating, and encourage people to include fresh fruits and vegetables in their meals.

Other participants in the Alameda County event were:

  • Albany Mayor Peggy Thomson and Chef Rhasaan Fernandez from Sam’s Log Cabin
  • Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti and Chef Jose Guevara from Johnny Garlic’s
  • Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison and Chef/Owner Bill Rinetti from Massimo’s
  • Hayward Mayor Pro Tem Mark Salinas and Chef Tony Solorio from Tacos Uruapan
  • Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne and Brian Hampton from Handles Gastropub
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    Image courtesy Mercury News Media Center