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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Culinary chefs compete to make sweetest treats

    Rebecca Noble

    Co-owner of Tazzina di Gelato Peter Miller stirs frozen blueberries for his ʺIce Dragonʺ dish he is submitting for the Sweet Charity Dessert Challenge in his shop’s kitchen on Broadway Boulevard and Craycroft Road on Thursday. Miller opened the store with his mother, Leslie Miller, in 2011 due to the love of Italian food she instilled in her son from an early age, and the two continue to work together daily.

    Art is dazzling in its many forms, but food art is not only awe-inspiring but also appetite-inducing.

    The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance will host its third annual Sweet Dessert Charity Challenge on Friday at 6 p.m. in the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. Local culinary chefs, of both professional and student levels, will create and present their own delicious concoction of sweetness for all to sample in the competition.

    “I think that having the Art Institute [of Tucson] participate alongside professional chefs is an amazing learning opportunity for [the students] and also provides a good networking avenue,” said Liz Stern, development director of SAACA.

    Last year, Janet Hoogasian and Mary Gronback, both students of the Art Institute of Tucson, won the award for Best Chilled Dessert for their butternut squash panna cotta with cranberry whipped cream. Hoogasian and five other students are entering their own dishes this year with ingredients varying from sweet potato to ravioli.

    Stern said that since this is the third year, there are more participants, and there has been a surge in the growing integration of the cocktail creations.

    Peter Miller, chef and owner of Tazzina Di Gelato, is submitting a cocktail dessert titled “Affogatto.” Miller said this cocktail, a traditional drink in Italy, is a scoop of the shop’s special white coffee gelato dipped in coffee, but since the event is late at night, they are going to offer two options: coffee and hot chocolate. The shop also won last year’s category for Best Candy Dessert.

    “Food is probably one of the only things you experience with all five senses, so it’s really stimulating,” Miller said. “Touch, sight, smell, hear — all that stuff comes to play when you’re working with food.”

    Krista Owens, pastry chef of Loews, won the Best Chocolate Dessert award last year with her “Drunk Elvis.” Owens is submitting two dessert dishes this year: Heisenberg, aptly named after the “Breaking Bad” character, and Pearfection.

    Owens said she named the dessert Heisenberg because of its addictive taste, and the name Heisenberg sounded more clever than just calling it “crack” cake.

    Owens said she also wanted to make something awesome and see other people’s reactions to her creation.

    “With dessert specifically, it’s easy to wow a guest,” Owens said, “because you can be so creative and do crazy things that most people won’t do at home.”

    Miller had different thoughts on consumer reactions to his desserts.

    “I think people like to destroy things, and eating is destroying something,” Miller said. “It’s kind of appealing to look at something and then just annihilate it and enjoy.”

    As event returnees, Miller said its atmosphere is “professional and delicious” while Owens describes it as “really exciting.”

    Stern said that though there are new participants each year, there are also some of the same participants as the year before.

    “I love to see local businesses promote their business,” Stern said, regarding what she enjoys about the event. She added that since there are a lot of desserts, choosing which dish to eat is a difficult one, especially since the event is judged via people’s choice.

    “You’re welcome to [make] yourself as sick as you want,” she said.


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