Carl Van Dekker of Village Dog Wins the First Round of the Golden Knives Challenge


Last night, Chefs Alex Sze (Juniper, Hastings-on-Hudson) and Carl Van Dekker (The Village Dog, Tarrytown) kicked off the first evening of the Golden Knives Challenge at The Lodge at Hudson Harbor.

The Lodge was a beautiful backdrop to the make-shift dining room created in the main hall; the all-natural ambiance was only enhanced by the surrounding rustic woods. The Lodge is an amazing event space, and kudos to event organizer, Chef Eric Korn (Good-Life Gourmet, Irvington), for making participating “judges” feel like they were eating in nothing short of a five-star restaurant.

After the 7 p.m. seating’s dishes were quickly cleared from tables, the second seating was asked to move from the bar area (where we watched and undoubtedly drooled over the sneak peek we had of the dessert course) to the dining room. As the Tappan Zee shone through the glass behind him, Chef Korn came out, introduced himself, and thanked us for our participation.

Then the judging began.


For the appetizer course, Chef Van Dekker sent out a “trio of peas” — a small cup of pea and almond soup shared a plate with a pea crostini with almond butter and house made ricotta and a pea chute salad with ramps. It was a very clean start to his three courses.


Chef Sze went for a different approach, sending out a flavor-packed small plate of squid ink paella served with clams, shrimp and roasted red pepper.


The entree course arrived quickly after — Chef Van Dekker served cotechino (think fresh sausage, but with a much more smooth interior) with creamed ramps and polenta.

chickenChef Sze’s truffle poached chicken, served with asparagus and oyster mushrooms all plated over a sunchoke cream, sent the dining room abuzz. This was going to be a much harder competition to judge than we thought it would be.


Dessert was a sweet tooth’s dream. Chef Van Dekker whipped up a butterscotch pudding perfectly complimented with a rosemary sea-salt short bread, while Chef Sze created a delicious carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

A quick round of applause was given to the two chefs—Chef Sze (left) pictured below with Chef Van Dekker—who came out and introduced themselves, before the ballots were passed out and voting (not to mention lots of discussion) began.


The winner was announced on the Golden Knives Facebook page today: In a close vote, Carl Van Dekker of Village Dogs edged out Alex Sze of Juniper. Alex will be in the running on Friday for Fan Favorite, which you can vote for on the Golden Knives Facebook page.

Looking to participate in the Golden Knives Challenge’s upcoming evenings? To reserve your ticket, call 914-747-0519 or email

Blogger Katie Schlientz will be tweeting live  from the Golden Knives Challenge each evening. To get a sneak peek at menus, follow her @KatieSchlientz, #goldenkniveschallenge. For more event photos, click here.


About Author creator Katie Schlientz started her love affair with food after she cooked her first dinner for her family. On the menu? Straight out of the box mac 'n cheese. While her cooking skills and palate have certainly matured since then, she still loves watching people experience good food. To join the Westchester #foodienation, visit

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