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PHOTOS: Chefs battle for top paella honors

By Ty O'Neil

Battle Born Beer hosted the Reno Paella Cookoff on Sunday with a sold-out attendance. The event pitted 10 paella cooks against one another in a judged competition to see whose creation would come out on top.  

Chef Giuseppe Zappala and Nico from Team Bella Italia, a south Reno Italian restaurant, took home first place honors, and a custom paella pan. 

Paella is a one-pan meal traditionally served in Spain. It is made with rice and saffron and any combination of chicken, seafood, meat, beans and vegetables. 

Competition paellas ranged from traditional to unique chefs’ creations and regional varieties. The only rules were that chefs had to cook outdoors and provide their own cooking setup, whether it be gas, charcoal, wood or some other method.  

Lisa Zabalegui of Basseterria made her traditional Basque paella for the event. Zabalegui explained that paella uses regional ingredients, and in Basque cooking that means fish. She also imported rice and other ingredients for the recipe she made for the event.  

Zabalegui said she also had practiced for the event, specifically cooking outdoors on an open flame. She said the results were fantastic.  

The event had more than 300 guests, but the paella made by those chefs competing was not available to the general attendees; it was reserved for the judges to taste. Attendees didn’t go hungry, however. Big Blue Q of Tahoe was on hand making their own paellas for attendees to enjoy. 

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