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HAMMONTON - Delicious aromas filled Elvins Hall at the Hammonton Volunteer Fire Company Station 2 on Sunday afternoon for the Rotary Club of Hammonton’s annual Gravy vs. Sauce competition.

Dozens of competitors, across several categories from homemade to professional, made their best recipes in the hopes of impressing hungry crowds and judges alike. The pressure to impress did not faze some of the competitors though.

“I thought it would be fun,” said competitor Desiree Campione about why she decided to participate in the competition for the first time. Campione, who competed in the homemade red category, used her grandmother’s recipe — with her own twist. The recipe worked as Campione went on to win first place in the judge’s portion and as the people’s choice in homemade red.

The judges for this year’s competition were Thomas J. Fletcher, Rotary district governor, Bruce Johns, chef and director of Atlantic Cape Community College’s Culinary Operations, and Patricia “Kelly” McClay, chef and Atlantic Cape Community College Dean. With years of experience in the culinary arts, impressing chefs Johns and McClay was no easy feat as they looked for several specific attributes when judging the entries.

“I am looking for consistency, lack of acidity, and overall taste,” said Johns.

After tasting all of the entries, the judges were impressed with the overall quality of all of the entries.

“I think that the competition is being elevated,” said McClay. “You couldn’t tell the difference between the amateurs from the professionals.”

The judges did give offer one piece of advice, according to Rotary member Maribeth Capelli.

“If the sauce is running off your macaroni, you lose points for that,” Capelli said.

Yet, the judges were not the only ones who had to be impressed.

Hungry visitors, each with their own tastes and preferences, also had the chance to vote for their favorites.

“I like the ones that are a little sweeter,” said Ruth Devine. Her husband, Dan, on the other hand, had another preference.

“I like it to be a little thicker and have a little bite to it,” he said. They also had different preferences when it came to what to call the entries. “I’m sauce,” laughed Ruth, while Dan smiled and said “I say gravy.”

While taste testing was an important part of the competition, the real question of the day was: Is it gravy or sauce? Volunteers asked each person who attended the event what side of the great debate they fell on. This year, the large majority sided with sauce.

At the end of the day, though, the gravy vs. sauce competition was about fun and family.

“I think because it is a great family event for people to come to. Plus, it’s not a competitive atmosphere,” said Capelli about why she thinks the event is so popular.

Capelli did make two requests for future competitions.

“Please bring more types of sauce,” saying she hopes future competitions will see competitors bring some vodka, alfredo, blush and seafood sauces.

Capelli also had another request — more help. “Many of our contestants want to make it bigger, but we need more help, especially in the planning process.”

In fact, the Rotary Club of Hammonton was encouraging people to join throughout the competition, which is a major fundraiser for the club. Rotary Clubs are heavily involved in their communities and throughout the world.

For more information on the Rotary Club of Hammonton, please visit http://www.hammontonrotary.org.

This year’s gravy vs. sauce winners were:

Homemade Red

1st Place - Desiree Campione for Homemade Red

2nd Place - Joseph A. Lombardo for Lombardo’s Old World Marinara

People’s Choice - Desiree Campione for Homemade Red

Homemade Meat

1st Place - Paul Bossi & Marla Kettinger for Giglio

2nd Place - Bonnie Nargi for Bonaroos

People’s Choice - Chris Biscoglio for Biscoglio Calabrese-Abruzzese Red

Homemade Other

1st Place - Jody Simone for Nanny Jo’s Carbonara

2nd Place - Kathleen Long for Kathleen’s Pesto Sauce

People’s Choice - Jody Simone for Nanny Jo’s Carbonara

Professional Red

1st Place - Columbia II Tomato Sauce

2nd Place - Mario’s Pizza & Assaggio Marinara

People’s Choice - Columbia II Tomato Sauce

Professional Meat

1st Place - Rocco’s Townhouse

2nd Place - Just Fork It Meaty Sauce by Jillian & Juliette Daniels

People’s Choice - Rocco’s Townhouse

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