The results are in: two very lucky people have been selected by Firestone Discoveries Wine to hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu in the name of food, wine, and exploration.
Held January 10-12 in the Santa Ynez Valley, the competition was the culmination of many months’ preparation on the part of its contestants. In the spirit of the new Firestone Discoveries label – which encourages new experiences in wine, cuisine and travel – the public was invited to compete for an all-expenses-paid opportunity to hike the Inca Trail in one of two positions: as a private chef to prepare gourmet meals using only simple tools and local ingredients, or as a “Pathfinder” to employ social media, photos and videos to document the trek and report on pairing Firestone Discoveries wine with inspired meals on the 25-mile hike. The trek will be guided by Zephyr Adventures, an active travel tour company based in Montana that specializes in embracing real, life-changing experiences.
The weekend of the competition, all six finalists, three Pathfinder wine contestants and three Guest Chef finalists, were flown to the Santa Ynez Valley where the Guest Chef contestants wasted no time in preparing for the challenge of designing a Firestone Discoveries wine-friendly menu for 50 guests with $300 the following evening. Their only help in the rustic kitchen would be the Pathfinder contestants as sous chefs.
The day of the throw-down, the Guest Chef and Pathfinder contestants were delivered to the Crossroads Pole Barn on the Firestone Estate, where only the basic implements that would be available on the Inca Trail – a barbecue, propane stove, a table and non-industrial cookware – were provided for the production of the meal. Pulses quickened and spirits ran high as each chef and sous chef delivered a menu of uncommon creativity tailored to the unique flavors of one Firestone Discoveries varietal wine.
Criteria for the selection of the winning Pathfinder was based on each contestants’ social media prowess and interaction with the Guest Chef contestants. The coveted position ultimately went to Margie Tosch of Sonoma, California, whose background in customer service and social media for the wine and hospitality industry gave her an edge over fellow finalists Kim Kulchycki, of Carmel, CA, and Lotchana Sourivang of San Francisco, CA. The title of Guest Chef went to Rodelio Aglibot, (also known as the "Food Buddha") who is the Executive Chef at Sunda Restaurant in Chicago. Aglibot’s substantial accomplishments as an adaptive and imaginative chef informed his ability to engineer a menu that was not only feasible to recreate along the Inca Trail, but that also paired beautifully with the selected Firestone Discoveries wine. Fellow finalists for the Guest Chef position included Scott Beale, Chef and Owner of Grey Gelding Bistro & Bar in Saratoga Springs, NY, and Tim Kirker, Chef and Partner at Bistrot Zinc in Chicago.
The esteemed panel of judges included: Anthony Dias Blue, one of the most influential wine, food and lifestyle personalities in the United States, whose current endeavors include founding Blue Lifestyle, The San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and The Tasting Panel Magazine; Michael Cervin, a prolific and ubiquitous contributing editor and columnist to food, wine and lifestyle publication throughout the U.S., and radio host of “Cervin it Straight” on KZSB AM-1290 Santa Barbara/Ventura; Janelle Weaver, Executive Chef and consultant for Kuleto Estate Winery in Napa Valley., among others; Paul Warson, Winemaker for Firestone Vineyard; and world-renown chef Bradley Ogden, the culinary genius behind eleven award-wining restaurants whose many awards include "Best Chef of California," by the prestigious James Beard Foundation.
Given the immense success of the competition and the enthusiasm of the applicants, Firestone Discoveries will continue to “ignite the senses” through further social media promotion and additional Pathfinder Challenges in the near future. In the meantime, armchair adventurers can follow Pathfinder Margie Tosch and Guest Chef Rodelio Aglibot on their Peruvian trek at www.firestonediscoveries.com or on Facebook.