A chef who had his food judged by one of television’s harshest critics was the one rating the fare Saturday at Union’s Wingfest.

Trenton Garvey, who wowed fiery chef Gordon Ramsay in winning the recent season of “Hell’s Kitchen: Young Guns,” was a real celebrity judge among primarily local politicians in the wing-cooking contest judiciary.

Garvey received a hero’s welcome among those in attendance at the Union City Auditorium, posing for photographs with fans.

Garvey said he lives down the street from the downtown festival and came by Wingfest on Friday, the first night of the event.

“I never got the opportunity before, so I came down and checked it out,” he told The Missourian.

Organizers offered him the chance to judge Saturday night’s wing-cooking contest, which Garvey jumped at. Red, White and Brew was judged to have the best-tasting wings, with Big Boys finishing second.

The event gave Garvey, 26, the opportunity to talk with people in his hometown after he was named the winner of the 20th season of “Hell’s Kitchen” Sept. 13. The victory earned Garvey a $250,000 prize and the job of head chef at the Gordon Ramsay Steak Las Vegas restaurant. He also will continue to be mentored by Ramsay.

Garvey watched the season’s final two episodes at a watch party with Ramsay in Las Vegas. About 130 colleagues, friends and fans crowded into the Blue Duck in Maplewood, where Garvey has been executive chef, the same night.

Garvey and fiance Macee Jarvis, who he proposed to on the season finale of “Hell’s Kitchen,” which was filmed in 2019, then took a drive up the California coast. Jarvis has been manager of Scenic Regional Library’s Union branch since August 2020 and has worked there since 2012.

“Now we’re trying to move,” Garvey said.

Garvey hopes to start his new job in Las Vegas in November.

There was little culinary drama in the wing-eating contest, Wingfest’s signature event. Randall Avery, of Washington, easily won for the second consecutive time, raising his arms in victory after finishing off his plate. Birge Robinson finished second.

Avery’s technique is simple, he said. “Just take ‘em off the bone and swallow,” he said.

Wingfest also included live music and a cornhole tournament and kicked off with Friday’s Rotary Club of Union 0.1-kilometer fun run, which started at Elmer’s Tavern and went downhill for a tenth of a kilometer to the auditorium.

Attendance for the 2020 Wingfest was hurt by rain. Although rain was back Saturday, organizers didn’t allow it to have the same impact.

Instead, they moved most of the activities, including music and food contests, into the auditorium.

Although it rained consistently but lighter last year, this time Wingfest faced the threat of more dangerous storms, said Union Assistant City Administrator James Schmieder, who helped run the event along with the Union Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s just the right call when you have the threat of rain,” he said. “The equipment is too expensive to risk being destroyed on a pop-up thunderstorm.”

That also means the decision to move inside has to be made well before the public shows up, Schmieder said.

Saturday typically sees a steady stream of attendees, though more show up at one time Friday, when the events are more condensed in the evening, Schmieder said.

They expected between 1,500 and 2,000 people to attend over the course of the two days.