‘Top Chef’ to help judge recipe contest; Johnny Iuzzini to appear at Clewiston Sugar Festival

If you ask Judy Sanchez what she’s most looking forward to at this year’s Sugar Festival, one of her answers might arrive before the question has a chance to end: Johnny Iuzzini.

The director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar doesn’t mince words when talking about Iuzzini, the author of Sugar Rush, a head judge on Bravo’s television series, “Top Chef: Just Desserts,” and one of the most highly renowned pastry chefs in America. Ms. Sanchez is an avoid cook and cookbook collector, with hundreds of cookbooks, each and every one of which is well-read and oft used.

“If you look at his cookbook, he has the best recipes. They’re just tremendous, tremendous recipes,” said Ms. Sanchez. “I’m excited to be meeting the man.”

The television personality will be in Clewiston this weekend to help judge this year’s Sweet Taste of Clewiston Contest. The annual staple event of the Clewiston Sugar Festival is an event that many look forward to each festival, and with Johnny Iuzzini personally trying out recipes this year, the stakes will be much higher.

But if there was ever a city more ready than Clewiston, it is hard to imagine. Winners in previous years have offered their delicious creations for the entire community to try out, crafting some of the best desserts imaginable. There is little doubt that locals will put their best foot forward yet again to gain Mr. Iuzzini’s favor.

Contestants may feel like a reality star themselves, with the Top Chef judge at the helm. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Johnny Iuzzini has worked at prestigious restaurants, including famed restaurants throughout New York City. The River Cafe, Daniel, Payard, Cafe Boulud and three-Michelin-star restaurant Jean Georges are among the restaurants Mr. Iuzzini has helped to establish as top restaurants. He has also appeared in television segments for The Food Network, Martha Stewart, Today Show, Good Morning America, and Iron Chef America.

Residents and visitors will get a chance to meet the celebrity judge at the festival.

Also an author, Mr. Iuzzini’s latest book, Sugar Rush, a baking course with more than 150 sweets, is what has Ms. Sanchez excited.

“I’ve made three or four recipes already and plan to work my way through his cookbook,” she said.

Residents who enjoy sugary treats should know that the Sweet Taste of Clewiston Contest will be held at the Clewiston Sugar Festival, March 19, at Civic Park on US Hwy 27.

Participants this year will be vying for cash prizes, with judging beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 10 a.m. Judges will be scoring in three areas: presentation and appearance (5 points maximum), originality or creativity (5 points maximum), and taste (10 points maximum). Participants will be shooting for that perfect score of 20 points for entries in one of four categories: cakes and pies, cookies and brownies, sweet creations, and youth entries.

Winners are expected to be announced at approximately 1 p.m. at the festival. This year will also see a cake sale and silent auction, and the public will have a chance to bid on entries.

Judy is confident that Clewiston will impress the celebrity judge.

And if you’re wondering what other attraction Ms. Sanchez is looking forward to, she doesn’t mince words there, either. “Gary Allan. He’s a favorite singer of mine.”

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