Courtesy Freddie Bitsoie
Ka’ainoa Ravey, Ahmed Obo, Freddie Bitsoie at the first Thunder Chef Native cook off competition

Thunder Chef Cook-Off Pits Native Chefs, Raises Money

Kelly Koepke

Organizers of the first Thunder Chef Native cook-off on May 3 promised that their Iron Chef-style event would not be the last. Some 500 attendees at the Pueblo of Pojoaque’s Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino near Santa Fe, New Mexico enjoyed gourmet cuisine prepared by three distinguished chefs, demonstrations from two dance groups, and the raffle of a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

The event was a fundraiser for the Pueblo of Pojoaque Youth Hoop Dancers, who performed at the event. The group has been invited to an international dance festival in France in July. They hope to send 13 dancers aged 6 to 17 to the festival, where they will perform the dances they began learning in summer of 2013.

Three chefs each created a three-course meal for a panel of eight judges. Each course featured buffalo hunted by the chefs in early April, prepared in the style of their native cultures. Later that month, the chefs chose their cuts and prepared their menus. The judges, Albuquerque television meteorologist Steve Stucker, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales,Santa Fe City Councilor Peter Ives and some hospitality and advertising personalities critiqued each course as the other attendees sampled tasting portions.

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Ka’ainoa Ravey, Chef de Cuisine at Red Sage, the fine dining restaurant at Buffalo Thunder, took both the judges’ first place award and the People’s Choice honors. A native Hawaiian, Ravey’s food has been described as a little Hawaiian, a little New Mexican, with an American attitude and an Asian twist.

He served hemp seed-crusted buffalo tenderloin and Hawaiian butter fish over arugula greens as an appetizer, then buffalo skirt and sirloin strips in a Korean-style bulgogi marinade with octopus kimchi salad as his main dish. For dessert, he presented buffalo bone marrow ice cream with crème brule topped with buffalo blood seeped cherries.

Second place winner Ahmed Obo, chef and owner of Santa Fe’s Jambo Café, hails from Lamu Island off the coast of Kenya. His dishes combine European, Arabic and Indian influences. Obo, who presented his dishes to the judges first, cooked miniature buffalo sausage meatballs in a creamy soup of dried fruit and sweet potato.

His entrée featured braised buffalo short ribs seasoned with Ethiopian berbere spice over fufu, a traditional African dish made of cassava and plantains. Obo’s dessert paid homage to the fundraising theme of the afternoon by combining ground buffalo meat, spices and dried fruit in a phyllo dough purse topped with coconut sauce.


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