DUBLIN -- 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 at creating recipes on the spot. "It's something I do at farmers markets," Fernandez said. "To get ready for an event like this, I also do lots of push-ups and eating."
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.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.