Grapevine Farms hopes chicken salad translates into $300,000.
The Cobleskill boutique and restaurant is taking its popular chicken salad recipe to the World Food Championship in Las Vegas and is looking to win the top prize.
It all started with Grapevine owners Tim and Tracy Purcell meeting celebrity chef Ben Vaughn at SUNY Cobleskill earlier this year.
Friendly conversation led to Mr. Vaughn's lunch at Grapevine, more visiting and eventually, Mr. Vaughn giving the owners a 'golden ticket,' which serves as an invitation to the championship in November.
Mr. Vaughn will be the emcee at the Vegas competition, but he'll also be making a return trip soon to Cobleskill. (See related story.)
Grapevine Farms' chicken salad, though, has been the centerpiece, and as print and social media spread the word, new fans have flocked to the business on Route 7 east.
"People are coming here who have never heard of us," Mr. Purcell said. "We're up to 120 pounds of chicken salad a week."
Grapevine Farms will be one of 500 competitors in the November 12 championships. The restaurant is in the recipe division and in the first round, will compete against 49 others.
It's an elimination contest, so each entrant must win the first round to advance to the next. Grapevine Farms' chicken salad will probably figure only in the first round.
"After that, it's like one of those crazy TV shows where people have to run to the refrigerator for ingredients," Ms. Purcell said.
"But if we get past the first round. . .Wow!"
Can something as commonplace as chicken salad win?
"Last year, carrot cake won, who knows?" Ms. Purcell said.
And then, Grapevine Farms' chicken salad isn't commonplace. The Purcells have had the recipe for a while but have tweaked it over the years.
Their recipe calls for diced fresh baked chicken, walnuts and dried cranberries. They sauté the cranberries in New York State Riesling to plump them up, Ms. Purcell said.
They got the cranberry-Riesling idea from a chef who came to be a volunteer cook during the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
"And it gives us a chance to use New York State wine," Mr. Purcell said.
The Purcells won't be going it alone in Vegas. They're taking 18, including some staff, family and friends.
In the mix are employees Robin Stauble and Chrissy Weber, keys to the contest.
"Robin can take anything out of the refrigerator and make anything out of it," Ms. Purcell said. "Chrissy is our kitchen manager, and she's great."
Rules for the competition--which Grapevine hasn't received yet--will outline the successive stages, and participants will practice before the November event, Ms. Purcell said.
The World Food Championship isn't winner take all $300,000. Competitors can win prizes along the way.
Whatever Grapevine Farms wins, the Purcells plan to give half to their scholarship at SUNY Cobleskill and to Cobleskill Regional Hospital.