Griffith Centers for Children celebrates their fourth annual Griffith’s Kitchen culinary competition in which top Colorado Springs chefs team up with students from the program to present collaboration dishes. On Thursday, September 14, Three Graces Ballroom at Garden of the Gods Collection staged an elegant event with a silent auction and large assortment of appetizers and desserts by donation from local establishments like Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub & Restaurant and Sugar Plum Cake Shoppe. RMFR was present to serve as a judge on the esteemed panel with Greg Howard, director of food and beverage at Garden of the Gods Club and Resort, and alongside chefs Aaron Rivera and Brother Luck.

Luck has been an integral part of Griffith Centers and says that his involvement is, “really personal”. He references his own challenges growing up and how his culinary path has proven to be a way out. Luck was able to form a connection with the kids and enlist local chefs to create the first Griffith’s Kitchen competition in 2014.

“For me it’s more about getting to know the individuals and learn their story,” says Luck. “We have the opportunity to be positive role models and being influential in their lives at such a crucial point is so important.”

RMFR relives the event with all four teams and their dishes, that emphasize ginger as a key ingredient, to encapsulate a delicious and inspiring evening.

Justin with Josh Kelly from Bonny & Read begin with salmon poke and micro pea tendrils on a puffy, sweet potato cracker. Justin explains that his inspiration for the dish spurs from his Northwestern roots and love of fresh caught seafood.

Next up we receive a Vietnamese Waygu beef lettuce cup with a soy mint sauce from Nate and Brian Knutson from Garden of the Gods Collection. The presentation showcases a vibrant color palette and Nate tops us off with an additional spicy dressing.

We move forward with Nick and Ben Miles from The Margarita at Pine Creek as they present Niku Dango, their version of the Japanese meatball made of pork and rabbit topped with a green papaya salad and ginger citrus mojo. Nick impresses all of the judges with his knowledge and articulation of the original dish.

Ian with Izzy Velez from Griffith Centers for Children Chins Up provides the last course with ginger mint lamb wontons and a cup of roasted cauliflower, carrot and ginger curry soup topped with parsley. We are a big fan of the creativity and British influence they bring into the dish and the flavor exceeds our expectations.

Asian fusion proves to be popular this evening as Nick and Ben Miles win the panel’s favor and take away the “judges choice” with their Japanese meatball. Nate and Brian Knutson capture the crowd’s vote with their Vietnamese lettuce wrap and receive the people’s choice award.

“All the dishes were great,” says Luck. “Sitting there listening to them present, there was a level of confidence I hadn’t seen before.”

Being privy to the showmanship and skill level the students are able to execute is a hopeful step for these young culinarians and a nod to what Griffith Centers is doing for at-risk youth. When we ask the students about their future plans some admit that their passions lie elsewhere but a few others state their enthusiasm and motivation to continue onto culinary school.

“When you go to see the situation these kids are living in, it’s beautiful,” says Luck. “They’re living together, cooking together, eating together and it’s right down the street and you have the opportunity to be a part of it.” 

*The last names of the student competitors is confidential to protect their identities.