The Mountain Times

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Santa Fe Steakhouse sweeps Jack Daniels contests winning first place for both food and drink recipes

The 20th annual "Taste of Tennessee" wrapped up another successful weekend with a blowout party Sunday Night at Outback Pizza. The raucous affair rounded out four days of Jack Daniels promotions and events up and down Killington Road and around the region. A large crowd of local chefs, bartenders and visitors alike waited to hear the results of the food and drink recipe contests, the culmination of the week.

It was the Santa Fe Steakhouse who walked away with the top honors in both categories this year. Matt Hortin was the envy of all other local bartenders as he was recognized for his unique drink creation. Hortin created a hot chocolate with an infusion of jalapenos in Jack Daniels, that subtly introduced the taste of the peppers without an overwhelming spiciness. Hortin's counterpart in the kitchen, Deb Pelky beat out other local chefs with her Jack Daniel's lacquered duck. Jarrett Bennett from the Wobbly Barn took second place for his food.

Both recipe contests are fiercely competitive and almost every restaurant and bar in Killington gets involved. The Mountain Times spoke to Lynne Tolley, who is the great grandniece of Jack Daniels himself. She is a chef in her own right and has published a cookbook. She is an official taster at the Tennessee distillery as well.

Tolley explained that the event started, simply enough, as a dining event. "In Killington, it is so unique that so many restaurants are close together around the mountain. We were able to do this dine-around contest and taste an entrée that used Jack Daniels. The contest worked in Killington where it wouldn't work in, say, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, because the restaurants are miles apart. We are able to go to ten different restaurants a night for three nights. These chefs in Killington are fantastic. They are all so creative. Every year I think 'oh, it's going to be a repeat of last year' and they blow me away. They come up with some unbelievably different entrees."

After a few successful dining out campaigns, the weekend evolved into what it is today. "That's how it got started, it exploded from there. We started having Jack Daniels contests, promotions and games at different bars and clubs too. It's a great week to come to Killington. Some people make it a point to come every year."

One of the newer contest that has become very popular, is the statue competition. Contestants are given a three foot Jack Daniels statue that they are instructed to paint, decorate and otherwise embellish using a certain theme for inspiration. "This year, the theme is 'rock and roll' and I can anticipate so many fabulous 'rock and roll' Jack Daniels statues for this contest. The bars will display the statues so their customers can see them," Tolley said, then they will be judged.

The Jack Daniels organization really values their partnership with Killington "It's the friendliness of the people that we have to deal with. You can do a lot of promotions in different places and the people in Killington are so nice and so much fun. They are so enthusiastic every year," Tolley said.