Nicholas & Co.'s biggest food show, at South Towne Expo Center, attracts restaurateurs chefs from four or five states who come to see what's new in food products. Yesterday, four of those chefs were cooking, not shopping.

It was the sixth annual Ultimate Chef Competition, sponsored by Nicholas. The winner gets a night to cook at ChefDance, the pop-up restaurant featuring visiting chefs from all over the country during the Sundance Film Festival.

Fellow judges Ted Scheffler, from City Weekly, Heather May, from Salt Lake Tribune and I tasted our way through 16 courses of over the top food to determine the winner.

At 2:30 p.m., the secret ingredient was revealed. Rather, were revealed, because this year the ingredients included the full line of Creminelli Fine Meats, Utah cheeses and honey products from Slide Ridge.

Each chef team was required to prepare four courses each using at least one of the secret ingredients.

As in past years, Fox's Big Budah hosted the show, joshing with the chefs, judges and audience ("Have you ever eaten gold before?" Actually, not a joke...)

 while chef Michael Showers from Nicholas wandered around the temporary kitchens (better equipped than most home kitchens) to see how the teams were coming along. “Looks lSundance whipping up a bechamel here,” or “Montage is slicing a lot of beets.” 

Competitors were Montage, Sundance Resort, La Caille and a dark horse for me, Wort Hotel out of Jackson, Wyoming.

And the food was amazing–I think, the best it's been in the five years I've judged. It was particularly great to see LaCaille competing, a sign of how far this restaurant has come since its days of canned escargots.

Teams were judged on taste, presentation and originality, with taste being weighted the most heavily.

In the end–surprise!–Wort Hotel won, but just by a hair. (If there were a separate award for presentation, I would have given it to Montage.

Of course, their dessert by amazing pastry chef Ray Lammers, was a wonder. A palmier-type pastry with Creminelli ham in it? )

Guess I'll be making a road trip to Jackson.

Here are more pics of some of the dishes.