Atlanta has a pretty vibrant food scene. It’s one that brings with it tons of opportunities for food lovers to not only dine well but to witness some of the competitive spirit that gets kicked up on our southern foodie playground. Just a few short days ago, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Atlanta-Buckhead played host to our city’s first Culinary Fight Club (CFC) event. The throwdown was a live cooking competition between three local chefs who competed for a Golden Ticket to the 2015 Food Championships in Kissimmee, FL.
The CFC MC was Kenmore Executive Chef and Spokesperson, Kari Karch. She set the culinary ball in motion by introducing us to the participating chefs. They were Richard Green, Executive Chef at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Atlanta-Buckhead, Sophia Lin Kanno, Home Cook, Blogger and Director of Design at Legendary Events and Andrew Tokas, Private Chef, Real Estate Guru and Wine Connoisseur.
When it was time to start, the chefs were given 60 seconds to select whatever they could carry from a table (aka pantry) holding 15 ingredients. Afterwards, they had 60 minutes to prepare a spectacular dish. The required ingredients for this competition were Stout beer and at least one “green” item. The chefs also had the option of bringing 3 secret ingredients from their own kitchens.
After the pantry had been raided and the cooking clock began, spectators were invited to enter the competition floor to watch the culinary showdown up close. We were allowed to ask the competitors questions and even take photos. It was wonderful having that kind of access as an attendee. Did I mention the music? It set the mood for the event from the very beginning. The energy was great.
Chef Richard Green prepared Reuben Fritters w/Colcannon Mashed Potatoes. Chef didn’t hold back any punches with this. The fritter was made of corned beef that had been home-brined for three weeks then stuffed with swiss cheese before frying. The Yukon Gold mashed potatoes were infused with kale that had been sauteed with garlic. Chef also prepared a sauce made by reducing a mixture of Stout beer, honey and butter. There was even a drizzle of Aioli made of egg yolks, oil, salt, butter and a little juice from sauerkraut. The plate Chef Richard presented included all of the above topped with a brunoise of diced tomatoes and a Pipette of Thirteeth Hour Stout beer. All of this in 60 minutes.
Chef Sophia Lin Kanno proudly assembled some Stout Braised Dumplings, a slightly modified version of her family’s recipe. Chef came prepared for this battle with a wonderful fighting spirit and her mom by her side as sous chef. Her secret ingredients were cilantro and dumpling sauce. The dumpling filling she made included onions, garlic, Stout beer, a little cabbage, cayenne pepper and white pepper. I love dumplings and was so happy to have a chance to witness the mother daughter duo in action. I love when families fight together with food.
Chef Andrew Tokas fought green by drawing inspiration from the south with his Braised Stuffed Collards. I’ve only seen collard greens being used as a wrapper once so I was curious to see how they would turn out. Chef’s secret ingredients also included yellow lentils and carrots; they were the primary fillers in his stuffing. The Stout was used to bloom the lentils and it was also used in the sauce served over the stuffed collard rolls. The dish was the greenest of the three with the inclusion of broccolini and kale, both of which came from the table. Other fillers & flavor enhancers were sausage, tomatoes, eggs as a binder, chicken stock, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and garlic.
Time flew by pretty quickly with all the mingling, chef watching, beer drinking, wine sipping, noshing and all. Next thing you know the last few seconds were counted down and the cooking came to an end. It was judgement time.
The judges were:
Beth Peterson, Lead Culinary Fight Club Judge, Founder & Chief Yummie Officer of Yummie Nation
Anthony Martorina, Culinary Fight Club Judge + Cheferee (on the floor) and one of the most Elite Yelpers on the net
Chef Wade Fortin, 2013 World Burger Champion
Chef Domenick Buffone, Owner of MiMo’s Bistro Italiano
Mike McCloud, Founder & CEO of the World Food Championships
Each chef presented their dish to the judges, then received feedback on the quality of the food and its presentation. This part was like getting to the 12th round of a boxing match with the exhausted fighters still standing but having to continue landing punches or enduring them until the final bell rings. I was nervous for each of them.
After the judges had their say, the spectators were able to try all three dishes and cast their votes as well. What a tough job.
After all of this, I’m not going to keep you waiting for the name of the winner. It’s…
Well maybe just another moment. A very very important benefit of this challenge is that it also serves as a fundraising event for a notable cause. During the event, attendees had an opportunity to support Fight2Feed, a non-profit organization with a mission to end hunger starting in Chicago. Even though this particular event is over, the mission to reduce food waste and end hunger isn’t, so let’s all keep up the fight and #DoSomething. Visit the Fight2Feed website to learn how you can help.
Now, back to the winning announcement.
The winner of Atlanta’s first Culinary Fight Club Taste Bud Challenge was Chef Richard Green for his delicious Reuben Fritters w/Colcannon Mashed Potatoes. Seriously, it was pretty tasty. Congrats Chef!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary admission to Culinary Fight Club’s Taste Bud Challenge via the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way. You can view my full Disclosure Policy here.