Five Jersey Shore restaurants dished out tasty desserts made with iconic Girl Scout cookies at TopCookie, a culinary competition on Feb. 6 to benefit Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore.
A panel of celebrity judges led by world-renowned chef David Burke selected Ohana Grill, a restaurant in Lavallette, as the TopCookie winner, while the People's Choice Award went to McLoone's Restaurants.
More than 200 guests got to sample the tasty treats, creatively displayed at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park. The benefit was part of Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore’s kickoff for the 2020 Girl Scout Cookie season and proceeds will fund leadership experiences for local girls.
CEO Eileen Higgins noted that the Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led entrepreneurial business in the world. “A box of Girl Scout Cookies isn’t just delicious, it opens up opportunities for girls to develop essential business and life skills,” Higgins said, noting that in 2019 the local Girl Scout council sold over 1 million boxes of cookies.
Area chefs were invited to enter the competition to transform the beloved Girl Scout Cookie flavors into desserts that were judged on the basis of appearance, flavor, texture and creativity. The judges' choice was a cheesecake and pistachio creation made with Samoa cookies by Ohana Grill owners Dana and James Costello.
Voted #1 by the public was a creamy tiramisu dessert with bites of Tagalong cookies whipped up by McLoone's pastry chef JoAnne Macalik. Event guests and the public selected the People’s Choice Award by casting votes at a $1 a vote.
Also competing in the dessert showdown were: Nicholas Creamery, an ice cream shop in Atlantic Highlands and Fair Haven, which scooped out small bowls of an ice cream dessert with Trefoils, and Talula’s, an Asbury Park eatery that baked a mini croissant with Do-Si-Dos. Students from the Ocean County Center for Culinary Arts Training, who train at Cuisine on Green at Atlantis in Little Egg Harbor, made a tasty macaron with Thin Mints.
Chef Burke, who appeared on two seasons of Top Chef Masters, and his team at the Drifthouse by David Burke in Sea Bright, offered a welcome dessert to guests made with the newest Girl Scout Cookie, Lemon-Ups.
Joining chef Burke on stage to taste the desserts and select the TopCookie champion were: Patty Caneda, owner of the Caneda’s White Rooster, Toms River; Jeremy Grunin, president, Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation; Tom Hayes, director of Consumer and Community Relations at New Jersey Natural Gas; and Carol Stillwell, chief executive officer of Stillwell-Hansen, Inc.
Restaurateurs and philanthropists Steve Bidgood, owner of Salt Creek Grille in Rumson, and Tim McLoone of McLoone’s Restaurants, were emcees at the cookie competition.
The event raised more than $20,000 to support Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore. “We truly appreciate the restaurant community coming together to help make a difference for girls and to all who made this inaugural event one to remember,” Higgins said.
Girl Scout Cookies will be available for sale at booths in Monmouth and Ocean counties Feb. 28 – April 11. To locate a cookie booth, visit www.GSFun.org/CookieLocator.