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Vermont chef takes top prize in crab cooking contest

West coast chefs, expert in cooking Dungeness crab were there. Baltimore's best seafood chefs were there, too, cooking their famous blue crab.

Chefs from North America, Germany and England were in this cooking competition.

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But it was a chef from Montpelier, Vt., who came away with the top prize in the 1st Annual Crab Cooking Olympics at Lexington Market here.

Twenty-five of the world's finest seafood chefs failed to surpass Chef Michel LeBorgne, executive chef at the Culinary Institute of New England in Montpelier.

And another Vermont chef, Peter Ryan, young chef-owner of the restaurant Casa Bianca in Rutland, took the gold medal for his crab salad with maple mayonnaise.

Each chef made five different crab dishes in the following categories: crab soup, crab salad, deviled crab, crab nouvelle cuisine, and chef's choice.

Chef LeBorgne was named Maitre Chef de Cuisine for his high accumulation of points, a first place in the chef's-choice category for his Feuillete de Crabe;, second place in the nouvelle-cuisine category for his Gateau de Crabe au Coulis d'Avocat, and another second for his crab salad.

Now executive chef and one of the founders of the New England Culinary Institute, Mr. LeBorgne was formerly chef at the Four Seasons and Le Caravelle restaurants in New York City. For 12 years he was executive chef at Yale University, before joining the culinary school two years ago.

Each competing dish in the olympics was scored on a 20-point maximum, based on appearance, taste, presentation, and originality.

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Crab was combined with caviar, kale, chilies, raspberries, wild mushrooms, oysters, truffles, snowpeas, fresh figs, papaya, and kiwi fruit.

Delicious fresh crab was made into quenelles, sausages, timbales, terrines, and petits fours. Along with the usual lemon and parsley it was garnished with periwinkles and fiddlehead greens.

Overall, the dishes were superb and beautifully presented, for these were all professional chefs from some of the finest hotels and restaurants.

As a judge I knew only the number of each dish that came into the room where judges were secluded. I rated them as objectively as possible.

Other judges were Jean Anderson, food writer, New York; Audrey Ellison, food writer, London; Harvey Steiman, wine and food editor, San Francisco Examiner; Urbano Bernadis, catering director, World Airways; William L. Saunders, Seattle gourmet, and Hope Daniels, food editor, Baltimore Sun.

The Crab Cooking Olympics started 12 years ago when Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro III of Baltimore claimed his Chesepeake Bay blue channel crabs were the finest in American waters.

San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto picked up the challenge, praising his coast's famous Dungeness crabs - and the competition was started, with culinary planning and advice from chef and food writer James Beard.

Now an established professional competition, the event will alternate between San Francisco and Baltimore, each city hosting an olympics once a year.

First-place winners in the other major competition categories include Richard Slater of Marty's in Dallas, Texas, for crab soup; chef Robert Reilly of Angelina's Restaurant in Baltimore for deviled crab, and Chef Jean Marie LaCroix of the Four Seasons Hotel in Montreal in the Crab Nouvelle Cuisine category.

Winning recipes from the amateur-recipe contest are available on request by writing to Baltimore Office of Promotion and Tourism, 110 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Md. 21201.

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