Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Beets, Cheetos make mouths water


October 12, 2017

Abbey Collins, Mary Koppes and Kyle Clayton hold their first place $300 check. Judges and event organizers pose with the champs. Jane Pascoe photo.

It's not easy to create a five-star dish using beets, anchovies, chili powder, Cheetos and gummy bears.

But that's just what the 16 chefs in this year's Chilkat Chef Competition had to accomplish last Saturday night.

More than 140 people attended last weekend's cooking competition in Harriett Hall where six teams had 50 minutes to incorporate those five mystery ingredients, revealed after the timer started, with a Chilkat coho salmon.

The chefs had to prepare one plate for each judge and a fifth plate to auction off to the audience. The teams were allowed to bring their own equipment and spices, but had to quickly plan what to do with their gummy bears, Cheetos and other mystery ingredients. They also had access to a pantry including greens, onions, mayonnaise, flour and other items.

After the timer started, judges and audience members asked questions of and heckled the chefs.

Karen Garcia told team Chop it Like its Hot's Abbey Collins that she was too slow at grating her beets.

Collins said despite the time and audience pressure, she was focused.

"I just feel like there was a method I was using, that was very precise and thought through, that maybe not all the audience members realized," Collins said. "I was shredding to a specific 'beat,' if you will."

Team Chop it Like it's Hot, which consisted of Collins, Kyle Clayton and head chef Mary Koppes, won first place. Collins and Clayton brought their friend Koppes in as a ringer from Petersburg, where she used to own and operate a food truck. Koppes is now the chef on the R/V Kestrel, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game research vessel that docks in Petersburg.

"The gummy bears threw me off the most by far," Koppes said. "We had a failed gummy bear experiment. It was the most stressful ingredient."

When the cooks tried to melt the gummy bears for a vinaigrette the candies stuck onto their non-stick pan, which put the pan out of commission for the rest of the competition.

Koppes said the Chilkat Chef Challenge was the most fun she's had this fall and she'll be back next year to defend her title.

"Oh yes. I'll be back."

Collins said the time and audience pressure made those 50 minutes go by "real fast" and helped her work faster.

"I think we were thought of as underdogs because we were never part of the competition before," Collins said. "We overcame some power issues and heat issues to come out on top."

Several teams experienced power outages as the hot plates, fryers, electric skillets, food processors and other machines pushed Harriett Hall's power limits.

Marty Fowler filmed the event with his ipad, which was displayed on a live feed to a projector where attendees could watch the action unfold.

The Klondikers, which included cooks Brad Adams and Steve Anderson, took third place. Sue Waterhouse, Fred Shields and his daughter Melina Shields' team Something's Fishy, took second place. Chop it Like it's Hot finished only .25 points ahead of Something's Fishy.

Judges Julie Rae, Candice Mustard Scott, Alissa Henry and Larry Talbert sampled each dish and scored them on flavor, creativity and presentation. The event raised more than $2,500 for Lynn Canal Conservation and the Haines Senior Village. Find Chop it Like it's Hot's winning recipes below.

Southeast Chili Cheetos Encrusted Coho

Coho salmon fillet


Chili Powder

Salt & Pepper



Crush Cheetos and add chili powder to taste. Add salt and pepper to salmon and flour. Dip salmon in egg and encrust with Cheetos mixture. Fry in hot olive oil until done.

Anchovy Lime Aioli

Lime juice




Dijon mustard

Olive oil

Dice garlic and anchovies. Add dijon, lime juice and olive oil to desired consistency. S&P to taste. Drizzle over salmon before serving.

Autumn Beet, Kale and Gummy Bear Salad


Pineapple gummy bears



Red onion

Fred Shields competes in this year's Chilkat Chef competition. His team, Something's Fishy, placed second and earned a $200 prize. Sue Waterhouse and Melina Shields rounded out the team. Jane Pascoe photo.

Shred beets into a bowl. Chop gummy bears. Thinly slice kale, red onion and apple. Toss.


Orange juice/zest

Lime juice/zest


Olive oil

Whisk together juices, zests and olive oil. Toss with salad. Salt to taste.


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