Cal Dining team goes for glory at Gilroy Garlic Festival

Anyone who’s ever hankered for a little garlic and bacon in their whoopie pie can satisfy that craving at this year’s Gilroy Garlic Festival Garlic Bowl, where two of Cal Dining’s top chefs will go up against three other universities in a cook-off featuring — what else? — lots of garlic.


Cal Dining chefs Jennifer Albers and Mary Ferrer. (Cal Dining photos)

Berkeley’s dynamic cooking duo — Jennifer Albers, executive chef at Foothill, and Mary Ferrer, executive chef at Café 3 — will also be chopping, julienning, searing and frying their way to a beef tenderloin with a garlic gastrique on a bed of garlic fried rice with green onion slaw. More than 20 cloves of garlic, plus garlic oil, will provide a pungent assist.

Their two cook-off recipes evolved over multiple iterations of trying and tasting, according to Albers, who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school before going to work, first at UC Davis and for the last four years at Berkeley.

“We want to capture the many flavors and textures garlic has to offer,” she says. In coming up with the recipes, the cooks also had to keep the clock in mind, because competition rules give them just one hour to complete their dishes.

“We also wanted these recipes to be accessible to the home cook,” Albers adds.

The Berkeley team will be competing against chefs from San Jose State, Santa Clara University and the 2013 Garlic Bowl champion, Fresno State. The competition starts at 1:45 p.m. Friday, July 27, and kicks off the three-day Garlic Festival, in its 36th year.

Discount tickets are available to the campus community by using the promo code “Oski” on the festival’s tickets web page.

Some two tons of garlic will perfume the air and flavor foods from fries to free ice cream during the Garlic Festival, in its 36th year.

The garlic-bacon whoopie pie builds on a Cal team tradition, pioneered in the 2013 bowl, of making a dessert that uses garlic — judiciously. Ferrer, who interned at San Francisco’s Ritz Carlton while earning a degree at the California Culinary Academy, was part of Cal’s 2013 team, which made a garlic-inflected St. Joseph’s pastry with garlic brittle to follow its halibut with a Lebanese/Syrian toum.

This year’s dessert recipe calls for a sweet cream-cheese frosting sandwiched between two bacon-larded cookies, with a small spoonful of frosting and a candied garlic clove on top.

“The whoopie pie brings some salty and sweet flavors,” explains Albers; the frosting and garlic brittle add creamy and crunchy textures. And a dessert may just capture the judges’ attention.

“We hope to bring home the win for the Cal family,” she says.