Chef Keith Erickson wins Colusa County Fair competition

A big crowd gathered for the fourth annual Chef’s Challenge at the Colusa County Fair on June 8. From left, host Supervisor Kent Boes, sous chef Trinidad Gutierrez, Chef Keith Erickson, of Colusa Casino Resort, Chef Don Litchfield, of Rocco’s Bar & Grill, and sous chef John Eirsey.

Don Litchfield, the chef and co-owner of Roco’s Bar & Grill, in Colusa, held the title from the annual Chef’s Challenge at the Colusa County Fair for the past three years – until last Friday, when he failed to topple Chef Keith Erickson of Colusa Casino Resort.

The two best cooks in Colusa County once again faced off in an Iron Chef-like competition, drawing a large crowd to watch them crank out two top-of-the-line dishes each, incorporating not one, but two mystery ingredients: Spam and tarragon.

“The food was incredible,” said Supervisor John Loudon, who judged the four dishes with Colusa City Manager Jesse Cain and writer Kathy Craigo Harteis. “It was amazing. I don’t know how they do it.”

Supervisor Kent Boes hosted the event on the Kitchen Demonstration Stage in Festival Hall.

“It was our own Iron Chef Stadium,” Boes said.

Erickson, along with his sous chef, Trinidad Gutierrez, took the win with salmon and saffron rice, and steak with cauliflower puree, with a tarragon demi-glace.

Both chefs earned nearly perfect scores, but Litchfield and sous chef John Eirsey had slightly more deductions for hiding his Spam just a little too well.

“I couldn’t taste it at all, and I hate Spam,” Harteis said.

The chefs were judged on taste, presentation, skill level, use of mystery ingredient, and showmanship.

Erickson, who started the competition in 2015, said the challenge is always a lot of fun, and he was pleased to have won this year.

The Colusa Casino sponsors the annual event and the $500 prize.