HARRISONBURG — Brian Bogan will arrive at Bluestone Vineyard on March 30 ready to defend his title as “Top Chef” in Harrisonburg.
“I thrive off of challenges,” said Bogan, who competed for Local Chop & Grill House last year and will represent Bella Luna Wood-Fired Pizza this year.
Top Chef Harrisonburg, based off the reality cooking competition television show “Top Chef,” is returning for its second year as a benefit for Blue Ridge Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children.
This year, six local chefs will battle against Bogan for the title. Returning chefs are Steve Pizarro of Cuban Burger, Tom French of the Joshua Wilton House and Vito Pellerito of Vito’s Italian Kitchen.
Food.Bar.Food is also returning to the competition with new executive chef Beau Floyd, and Colin Auckerman will now represent Local Chop. Montpelier Restaurant and Bar at Hotel Madison is entering for the first time with executive chef Ryan Youngman. This is also Bella Luna’s first time competing.
“[I’ve] got that pressure to defend the title, but this is all in good fun,” Bogan said. “I’d like to see one of my friends take the knife home this year. I think a lot of the chefs have a pretty competitive spirit.”
The inaugural Top Chef Harrisonburg sold out within a matter of days, according to Arianna Williams, the secretary of Blue Ridge CASA’s board and committee chair of the event. She said it raised close to $12,000.
“It was a very popular event and well-supported by not only the restaurant chefs, but the community,” Williams said.
Blue Ridge CASA, a group of volunteers who advocate for neglected or abused children in the court system, hopes to up the ante to $20,000 this year. All of the proceeds go to the nonprofit, Williams said, which will use the funds toward keeping a full-time advocate manager on staff for the Harrisonburg area.
“That advocate manager would oversee volunteers, and the volunteers work directly with the children,” she said.
Last year, the chefs were required to make two dishes, one of which had to be vegetarian, but this time around, the chefs need to make only one signature dish of their choice.
“They have complete discretion of what they make,” Williams said. “But we’re asking them that it’s plated and presented on the plate we’re providing them.”
Bogan’s winning dishes were a vegan squash bisque soup served in shooter glasses and sous-vide meatloaf sliders made with Autumn Olive Farm’s heritage pork. Bogan, who’s passionate about sourcing local ingredients, plans to create another farm-to-table dish.
“We’ll definitely have a strong local focus this year,” he said. “We try to use as much local ingredients as possible.”
The Bella Luna chef is still in the process of developing his recipe.
“Right now, I’m trying to think of something you can eat with your hands that fits on the small plate,” Bogan said. “Something that will stick out in people’s memories.”
The chefs can prepare their dishes off-site or in Bluestone Vineyard’s kitchen. Guests will make their way around the room to taste each of the seven dishes and vote for their favorite.
“The way that the scoring is going to work, 70 percent is based on attendees’ vote and 30 percent is based on the judges panel,” Williams said.
Two of the judges come from the local culinary industry, and a guest judge represents an event sponsor. The judges won’t know what the chefs are making in advance, which adds the element of surprise, Williams said.
The winner receives the “Top Chef” bragging rights, as well as a special engraved chef’s knife.
Top Chef Harrisonburg will begin at 6 p.m. A DJ was added to the event this year for dancing afterwards. WHSV news anchor Kyle Rogers will emcee the evening.
Regular admission is $100 per person, which includes tasting at all seven chef stations and two glasses of wine from Bluestone Vineyard outside Bridgewater. Less than 20 tickets remained as of Tuesday. For more information, visit www.topchefharrisonburg.com.