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Chefs’ Challenge 2016: Our Best Of-winning chefs create stunning multi-course meals and share their recipes

Aug 12, 2016 11:02AM ● By James Houck
By James Houck | Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

Eight years ago and on the heels of the annual Best Of contest voting, we developed the Chefs’ Challenge. A concept that would parlay the talent of the Best Chef winners for Annapolis and the Eastern Shore into a unique feature article for our August food-themed issue. This year’s Best Chefs to showcase their talents are Bobby Jones of The Point Crab House & Grill in Arnold and Mark Salter of the Robert Morris Inn in Oxford.

Each chef has been tasked with developing a superb, multi-course menu using seasonal, local ingredients. And this year’s crop of dishes are exemplary, as you’ll see on the following pages. How they put together their menus will have you craving a visit to their fine restaurants or, at the very least, inspire you to get creative in your own kitchen. And (bonus alert), we’ve provided the recipes and instructions for making them. Enjoy learning about each dish in the words of each chef. Bon appetit!

Bobby Jones of The Point Crab House & Grill

Seared Scallops with Melons, Serrano, Frisee, and Mint

“I came up with this dish for a recent wine dinner we did here at The Point. It came about after tasting a Sauvignon Blanc that had these delicious melon, bright acid, and tropical flavors. The sweet scallops and melon, the heat from the serrano, and the texture from the frisee make a great contrast of flavors, textures, and temperatures.”



  • Dry scallops
  • Red seedless watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe (Diehl’s Produce, Severna Park)
  • Fresh mint (Chesapeake Greenhouse, Sudlersville)
  • 1 head frisee lettuce
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • 6 limes
  • Sugar
  • Grape seed oil
  • Chili powder
  • Kosher salt

Wash, dry, and chop frisee; hold in fridge.

Place in a bowl about 1 cup each of the watermelon, cantaloupe, and honey dew, diced. In a separate bowl zest and juice 2 limes. Add 3 tablespoons or so of sugar to zest and juice (should be about equal parts sugar to juice by volume). Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add sugar lime juice mixture to diced melons, toss, and hold in fridge.

For the melon puree: In a blender add about 1 cup rough cut cantaloupe and 1 cup rough cut honeydew. Squeeze in juice of 4 limes. Finely slice serrano into very thin discs. Take about six of the discs and chop them down, adding about 1 teaspoon of chopped serrano to the melon/lime juice mixture in the blender. Blend until smooth. While blender is running, slowly add grape seed oil until volume doubles. The color will become bright and the puree will gain some body. Taste and add more lime juice if necessary.

Clean scallops and pat dry. Lightly season one side and sear in a hot pan with some olive oil. Turn when edges become opaque and the color is a deep brown. Finish scallops on second side checking again for color; don’t overcook.

Toss the frisee with some of the melon puree and season with some kosher salt. Plate a small handful of dressed frisee. Spoon out some melon puree on the bottom of the plate alongside the frisee and top with dressed melons. Top melons with seared scallops. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serrano slices.

Fried Manchego with Honey, Blackberry, and Pecan Sauce

“This dish was inspired from a trip my team and I took this past winter to Chicago. During our visit we stopped and ate and drank at several amazing spots. One particular favorite was The Purple Pig…ridiculous food. I’ve always loved queso frito and have thought about putting some sort of fried cheese dish on the menu. Wanting to stay away from the standard mozzarella, but not going with the straight Dominican/Columbian queso frito that I love…what to do became tricky. At the Purple Pig, Chef Bannos Jr. served his fried Manchego with a traditional Membrillo and it was crazy good. Manchego is firm, creamy, and has a great salt content, which contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the honey and berries in the sauce. The pecans add another familiar level of flavor and the cayenne and lemon help with a touch of heat and pop of acid. Yummy stuff.”



  • 6 oz. Manchego cheese
  • 1/4 Cup fresh blackberries (Diehl’s produce, Severna Park)
  • 1/2 Cup honey (Jones Station Farm, Arnold)
  • 1/4 Cup pecans (toasted)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch ground cayenne
  • 2 Cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 Cup whole milk
  • 2 Cups Panko breadcrumbs

Break down cheese into 2-oz blocks, about 1/2” thick and 1-1/2” square.

In three separate dishes prepare breading as follows: Dish 1, flour; Dish 2, eggs and milk; Dish 3, panko. Coat each cheese block in flour, then egg wash, then flour again, egg wash again, and finally in panko. Press panko firmly to create a solid coating.

In a food processor, combine blackberries, toasted pecans, honey, lemon juice, and cayenne. Process until smooth.

Place Manchego in a hot waffle iron and gently press top to close. Remove when golden brown.

Serve with sauce and fresh berries.

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Pan Fried Porgie

“Once spring hits, we can really start getting a lot more local produce in; it’s a great time of the year. This asparagus salad is a new dish on our Spring 2016 menu. There’s always the option to add a protein to our salad and when we can get in great local fish we always take advantage. This porgie is caught off the shores of Ocean City and really is a great ‘everyday eating’ kind of fish. It’s mild, flaky, easy to prepare, and has delicious skin. There are a couple bones to remove when filleting so be sure to get those out of the way. This is a great, light, fresh dish perfect for spring and summer. The olives and cheddar give an occasional surprising pop in contrast to the tarragon citrus vinaigrette. I love this salad. Simple and fresh with good balance.”



  • 1 whole fresh porgie (Ocean City)
  • Eastern Shore asparagus (Diehl’s Produce, Severna Park)
  • Red Oak Leaf, Green Oak Leaf, Romaine (Chesapeake Greenhouse, Sudlersville)
  • Cucumbers (Diehl’s Produce, Severna Park)
  • Kalamata olives
  • Cannellini beans
  • Extra sharp cheddar
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 Cup fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Champagne vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon
  • 1 Cup grape seed oil
  • Baguette for croutons
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper

Tarragon Citrus Vinaigrette

In a food processor add juice from orange and lime, chopped tarragon, vinegar, and Dijon. While processor is running slowly add grape seed oil. Season with salt and pepper. Hold in fridge.

Clean and prep asparagus. Blanch for 4 minutes and shock in ice bath. Toss in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. With the grill on high heat, grill asparagus to lightly char, turning frequently and paying close attention not to burn.

Clean and fillet fish. Score skin side of fish. Season both sides of fillet with salt and pepper and fresh chopped tarragon. On medium high heat, with some olive oil, place porgie skin side down into sauté pan. Hold fish down in pan for a few seconds so the fillet remains flat and the skin sears evenly (it will curl back otherwise). Pay attention to the color of the sear and the edges of the fillet cooking—adjust your heat down if necessary. You want to get a good crispy skin without over or under cooking your fish.

Combine greens, olives, beans, cheddar, cucumber, and tomatoes in a bowl. Dress salad with vinaigrette. Plate salad and top with grilled asparagus. Top asparagus with porgie fillet. Serve with croutons.

Soft Crab Sandwich

“We will run a Soft Crab ‘BLT’ whenever we can get fresh soft crabs. The customers absolutely love it, and really appreciate those soft crabs. However, we can always get fresh soft crabs in the spring before we can get fresh local tomatoes. Those hothouse tomatoes spook me. We don’t buy tomatoes at all in the off season, so before I can get those delicious, sweet, deep red, local tomatoes in, we come up with different ways to present the soft crab. Here’s one. Crab with ham has always been one of my favorite flavor combinations—and that salt-cured Smithfield country ham—if you’ve never had it before, do yourself a favor. It fell from heaven right after bacon landed. The crab is prepared pretty traditionally and then I added a simple aioli and a quick pickled onion. Obviously, the bread is super important to a sandwich—or anything for that matter. All of our bread is made here in-house, so we’re just as proud of our sandwiches as we are any of our other dishes. This sandwich has a lot of the traditional flavors that I associate with growing up eating soft crabs. It’s always fun to try to put flavors together in ways that still evoke the familiarity and memory of a dish, yet are new and interesting, too.”



  • Fresh soft crab (size = whales) (SC Seafood, Crisfield)
  • Boston Bibb Lettuce (Chesapeake Greenhouse, Sudlersville)
  • Smithfield Salt Cured Country Ham
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 Cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Fresh chives, parsley, chervil
  • (Chesapeake Greenhouse, Sudlersville)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp grape seed oil
  • Flour
  • 1 shallot, fine dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, fine dice
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 Cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Brioche Roll

Herb & Roasted Garlic Aioli
Coat garlic cloves in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, wrap in foil and roast in 450 oven for 5–7 minutes until browned and soft. Toss roasted garlic in food processor and add egg yolk, lemon juice, and Dijon. Combine two oils together. While processor is running slowly add combined oil. If aioli is too thick add a few drops of water to thin out. Chop about a tablespoon of fresh chives, parsley, and chervil and pulse in. Salt and pepper to taste. Hold aioli in fridge.

Quick Pickled Onion
Mix vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl until sugar and salt is dissolved. Slice red onion as thinly as possible—a mandolin works great for this but not necessary. Cover onions with vinegar, sugar, salt mixture. Cover and hold in fridge (at least 30 minutes or so).

Thinly slice ham into matchstick size strips.

Clean soft crab. Season crab with salt and pepper and coat in flour. Over medium high heat, add some olive oil. Once pan is hot, place soft crab in pan. Turn crab over after bottom crisps up and color becomes dark orange. When crab is a few minutes from being done add chopped shallots and ham to the pan. Once shallots are translucent, add garlic. Pay attention to ham, turn occasionally. After about 15 seconds, deglaze pan with white wine and lemon juice and reduce liquid until nearly gone. Reduce heat and add cold butter—stirring with tongs, bringing sauce together. Thoroughly coat crab with pan sauce.

Slice brioche roll, butter the inside, and toast off the bread, butter side down in a pan on medium heat—like you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Assemble: place lettuce on bottom half of bread. This helps keep the bread from getting too wet. Place crab on lettuce with some of the pan sauce. Stack on some of the pickled onion, then the cured ham and top with the herb and roasted garlic aioli.

Mark Salter of the Robert Morris Inn


Harissa and Agave Glazed Shrimp with Wye Mills Stone Ground Cheddar Grits and Cottingham Farm’s Greens

“Wye Mills produces yellow stone ground grits, which pairs perfectly well with the glazed shrimp. Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili paste. The main ingredient being red peppers. I decided to choose Harissa because I had been part of a seminar in which it had been used as a glaze for pork. As a chef it is always exciting for us to be introduced to new ingredients, which ultimately complement the food that we serve. Cottingham Farms is organic and is based just outside Easton. They grow a variety of salad [greens], vegetables, and tomatoes. I visit the farm regularly to pick up my order.”


Serves 4


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 35 each 26/30 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 Tbsp Harissa
  • 9 Tbsp agave
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Heat a sauté pan, pour in the olive oil. Add the shrimp seasoning with kosher salt and pepper. Sauté the shrimp on both sides before deglazing with the Harissa and agave.

Wye Mills stone ground yellow grits:

  • 1 cup stone ground yellow grits
  • 1 pint water
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 4 oz. Chapel Farms cheddar cheese
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Bring the water and the cream to a boil. Whisk in the yellow stone ground grits. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on a low heat stirring occasionally until cooked approximately 20 minutes. Finally stir in the Chapel Farms cheddar cheese.

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz. Cottingham Farms greens
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Pick over the greens, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and toss carefully. Spoon the cheddar grits into a warm bowl, arrange around the shrimp, drizzle with any excess Harissa glaze, and finish with the dressed Cottingham Farms Greens.

Pickled Watermelon and Farmers' Market Beet Salad with Herb Goat Cheese Crema and Toasted Walnuts

“I have a market stand at the Easton Farmers' Market on Saturday Morning. It is always exciting to see what the farmers bring to the market each week because we know it was harvested the night before or that morning. Whether from Tacahoe Farms, Provident Organics, or one of the other farmers who take so much pride in what they grow and sell ‘farm to table.’”


Serves 4


  • 3 per serving baby red beets
  • 3 per serving baby yellow beets
  • 4 each watermelon radish (recipe follows)
  • 4 oz. local mixed salad greens
  • ¼ cup walnut halves roasted
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1x11 oz. log goat cheese
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

Preheat oven to 375F. Place the washed beets on a piece of aluminum foil and add the 4 Tbsp of olive oil. Bring the foil corners together and secure the bag so it is air tight. Place on a tray and bake in the oven, approximately 25–30 minutes or until beets are cooked. Remove from the oven. Once the beets are cool, peel and cut into quarters.

Roll the goat cheese balls in the chopped fresh herbs and refrigerate.

Watermelon Radish:

  • 6 oz. small watermelon radish sliced (golf ball size)
  • 1 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cloves sliced garlic
  • 1/3 chopped Jalapeño with seeds
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice

Wash the watermelon radish, slice thinly. Boil the remaining ingredients for 1 minute. Cool, then add the sliced watermelon radish. Marinade in the liquid and leave to pickle overnight.

Goat Cheese Crema:

  • 1x11 oz. log of goat cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 each shallot sliced
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp warm water
  • 1/4 cup blended oil (25% olive oil, 75% vegetable oil)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in the food processor except the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a squeeze bottle and drizzle over the salad when needed.

Remove the watermelon radish from the pickle and arrange on the plate. Place on the quartered beets; toss the salad with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and blended oil. Arrange the goat cheese between the beets, sprinkle on the toasted walnuts, and drizzle with the goat cheese crema.

Local Beer and Cheddar Cheese Crusted Wild Rockfish with Baby Bok Choy, Fresh Asparagus, and Yellow Tomato Sauce

“Beer and cheddar cheese crust is commonly known as welsh rarebit and is an English savory, which is usually served on toast. Today, chefs use it as a crust for fish and this is also what I decided to do. I sourced a local beer from St. Michaels and blended it with Chapel Farms cheddar cheese. The texture and flavor of the rockfish allows it to stand up to the stronger flavors of the beer, mustard, and cheese without over-powering the fish. The bok choy and asparagus have been both sourced from local farms, too.”


Serves 4


  • 4 x 5 oz. rockfish fillet (skin removed)
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 8 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ Tbsp English mustard powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup dark local beer
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 6 oz. Chapel Farms cave-aged cheddar cheese
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Poaching liquor:

  • ½ cup white wine (medium dry)
  • ½ cup water
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Season the rockfish lightly with kosher salt and black pepper. In a preheated pan, sear in olive oil until golden in color on each side. Mix together the butter, flour, English powder, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and cayenne pepper. Add the beer and stir together. Pour into a sauce pan. Cook for one minute adding the grated cheddar cheese and the cream. Cook until cheese has melted and the crust is smooth in texture. Refrigerate. Take a couple of tablespoons of the crust and shape the same size as the top of the seared rockfish. Coat the top of the fish. Place the fish in a sauté pan and pour on the white wine and water, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer on the stove, then bake in a preheated oven 400F for 10 minutes.

Yellow Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup sliced shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 4 each yellow beef steak tomatoes (cut into even size pieces)
  • 3 each basil leaves

Cook the sliced shallots and garlic in olive oil. Add the white wine and cook for 1 minute before adding the chopped yellow tomatoes, honey, and fresh basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cook slowly on a low heat until the tomatoes are soft (approximately 20–25 minutes). Place in the blender and add 2–3 tablespoons olive oil. Season if necessary.


  • 12 spears asparagus
  • 2 heads baby bok choy (cut in half)
  • 10 each baby cherry tomatoes (cut in half)

Peel the asparagus spears. Cut to one-third of their original length. Save the peelings and deep fry until crispy. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the spears of asparagus and the baby bok choy in lightly salted water. Drain, toss with the tomatoes halves, and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Season if desired.

Black Bottom Farms Pork Chop with Olive Oil Crushed Potatoes, Carrot Ginger Puree, and Roasted Jalapeño and Barbecue Sauce

“I have known Kim Wagner, owner of Black Bottom Farms in Galena, for a number of years and the love and devotion that she gives her pigs is unbelievable. Two summers ago, I was invited to her farm to see how the pigs were raised, the feed they were given, and the quality of their shelters. If I was to come back as a pig it would be at Black Bottom Farms. Early that morning, Kim had put on two pork butts to cook and by late-afternoon there was this wonderful smell all over the farm. I asked her if she had seasoned the pork with any spices or flavorings. It was just a little salt and pepper, the real taste came from just the meat itself. I couldn’t believe it…the flavor was amazing.”


Serves 4


  • 4 x 6–7 oz. Berkshire Pork Chops


  • ½ cup blended oil (90% vegetable oil, 10% olive oil)
  • 1 clove sliced garlic
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

Place the chops in the oil with the herbs and the sliced garlic. Marinate for 1–2 hours.

Cooking the chops:

  • 2 Tbsp blended oil
  • 4 slices Idaho potato

Season the chops with kosher salt and black pepper. Sear in oil on both sides, place a slice of Idaho potato, under each chop, and roast in a preheated oven 375F for 5–7 minutes until cooked to 140–145F internal temperature. Use a stem thermometer if desired to determine the final temperature.

Olive Oil Crushed Potatoes:

  • 1lb. red bliss potatoes with skins
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Wash the red bliss potatoes and chop into even size pieces. Simmer in boiling salted water until cooked. Drain off the water. While still hot, mix with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Keep the potatoes hot on a low heat until ready to serve or keep warm in a preheated oven 325F for 10 minutes. Place the crushed potatoes in a ring mould onto the plate. Remove the ring mould.

Carrot and Ginger Puree:

  • 2 cups peeled chopped carrots
  • 2 slices fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp local honey
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • Kosher salt to taste

Place all the above ingredients into a saucepan and cook for approximately 10–15 minutes or until soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Place in a blender and puree until smooth. If you don’t have a blender then use a food processor. (You may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to allow the carrots to puree, if too much has evaporated during cooking.)

Roasted Jalapeño Sauce

  • 1 cup good barbecue sauce (Sweet Baby Rays or make your own)
  • 1 each jalapeño roasted
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Rub the jalapeño with olive oil and roast on a small frying pan in a preheated oven, 400F until blisters form, approximately 10–12 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Peel the jalapeño, discard the seeds, and chop the flesh finely. Add to the barbecue sauce and season with salt and pepper. (One may add some of the seeds chopped to the sauce if more spice is desired.)

Barbecue Sauce:

Remove the potato slices from the frying pan used earlier to cook the chops. Add 1/2 cup water and the barbecue sauce and cook until 1/2 cup remains. Finish with the finely minced jalapeño.

Finish the plate with arugula tossed with olive oil, pinch of salt, and pickled watermelon radish. (See salad recipe for watermelon radish recipe.)

Fresh Strawberry Shortcake with Chantilly and Mixed Berry Sauce

“Strawberry shortcake is really one of those classics that everyone loves to eat. I have always had a passion to pick my own strawberries and have done so over the last couple of years at Emily’s Produce in Cambridge and Blades Orchard in Federalsburg, both great sources for fresh, local strawberries. When I was about nine years old, with my twin brother, Andrew, we bought our first bicycles by picking countless boxes of strawberries on a local farm close to us. Back then, I think we picked as many as we ate.”


Serves 4


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ - 1 ¾ cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and heavy cream. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and, using a wooden rolling pin, carefully roll to 1-1/2 inches in thickness. Cut out with a cookie cutter, place on a tray, and brush with whole milk. Sprinkle with raw cane sugar. Bake for 10–12 minutes until golden. Cool on a cookie rack. Cut in half.

Mixed Berry Sauce:

  • 1 lb. mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

Remove the tops from the strawberries, place in a sauce pan with the raspberries and blackberries. Add the water and the sugar. Simmer until berries are soft, approximately 15 minutes. Mix in a blender until smooth. Strain through a sieve to remove any pips.

  • 1 lb. strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Wash the strawberries, remove the tops and cut into quarters. Mix together with the mixed berry sauce. Beat the heavy cream with the vanilla and powdered sugar until peaks form. Pipe the cream onto the base of the shortcake. Spoon on the marinated strawberries followed by a little more cream. Garnish with half a strawberry for each shortcake. Place on the top and sprinkle with more powdered sugar.


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