You’ve seen it on the Food Network before. Chefs duking it out, challenged with making a dish using mystery ingredients some of us have never even heard of, much less tasted. Knife Fight is one of the newest to air, set in downtown LA in the whee hours of the night after restaurants have closed their kitchens to the public. Who wouldn’t want to see chefs fight it out? And why not Edmonton chefs and live to boot? That’s what Mike Hudema thought to himself. So naturally, he teamed up with Kathryn Joel of Get Cooking to get things rolling. Welcome to a recap of inaugural Edmonton Food Fight!
Tickets sold out fast as word spread through social media. $15 got you a ticket to watch two chefs cook their brains out with three mystery ingredients in one hour. This beats watching a movie or watching TV any day! Last Saturday’s competitors: Chef Shane Chartrand of Sage Restaurant at River Cree Resort & Casino and Chef Brayden Kozak of Three Boars Eatery and Farrow Sandwiches. Was so so so excited! I love chefs. Their creativity and skills to execute delicious food in a moment’s notice = mind blasting. Mad respect for these guys (and gals!) out there.
Our judges for the night: Chef Paul Campbell, culinary instructor at NAIT and most popularly known for his amazing food at the old Cafe de Ville (may you rest in peace, sad face); food blogger Phil Wilson, Baconhound! and Kevin Kossowan, writer, producer and director of anything food- and agriculture-related. Mix in a few mystery ingredients, one hour of cooking time, and we’ve got a fight.
Edmonton Food Fight had arranged for three mystery ingredients, only introduced to the chefs right at the start of the fight. Our two chefs had ten minutes to brainstorm and gather other ingredients and supplies before their one hour time limit to produce a minimum of two plates utilizing all ingredients. The ingredients for the night: cod tongue from Ocean Odyssey Inland, lamb hearts from Acme Meat Market, and Jerusalem artichokes from August Organics at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market. Loved that everything was sourced locally!
Did you know that cod tongue isn’t really a tongue? It’s actually the muscle at the neck of the fish. Surprisingly firmer than it looks!
Jerusalem artichokes are neither related to Jerusalem or artichokes. Fraud! You might know them as sunchokes. I’ve only had them mashed and in ice cream format. Weird, I know.
Lamb hearts were the most foreign of the three ingredients to me! And now to come up with dishes that utilized all three ingredients? Our chefs had quite the challenge ahead of them!
The chefs had ten minutes to gather their ideas, ingredients, and supplies together for easier prep. Being in the Get Cooking kitchens was new to them and was one of the many challenges that they faced. It’s one thing to cook in your own kitchen, you know where everything is!
It was a packed house that night so I was cornered into one side of the kitchen. I got a great view of Chef Chartrand cooking but could barely see Chef Kozak on the other side. Other audience members who were a bit further back were able to see the action on the Get Cooking television screens although a live camera might have been more suitable to see the action. Once the hour started, you could clearly see the different styles between the two chefs: Chef Chartrand darted a mile a minute throughout the kitchen, looking for ingredients and supplies, while Chef Kozak seemed calm and very focused on the task at hand, despite a knife cut that sent everybody in a frenzy to find bandages!
The best part of Edmonton Food Fight was watching the chefs cook. I’m always amazed at their ability to be creative on the fly, and their technical cooking skills and ability to mesh all kinds of flavours and textures to form a plate. Below are the dishes for the night. I had to sneak in between and above the judges on some of them, pays off to be small sometimes! What was done to the mystery ingredients and the components of the dish were lost to me though. I hope that the next fight (yes, there’s going to be more!) will have a more detailed commentary on what exactly was going on!
What I did find out, was that each chef was allowed to bring five additional ingredients to the already-stocked Get Cooking kitchen beforehand. Chef Kozak’s? Umami-hitters like miso paste and instant dashi stock (hurray for MSG!) and other Asian ingredients like sake and even a smoked fish sauce (say whaaaa?). You can just imagine people’s faces when Chef Kozak served up his version of a sake bomb (think Jaggerbomb, but with sake) but with a cod tongue miso base. I was told it tasted like miso soup, but with sake and surprisingly very smooth!
Chef Kozak’s strategy was to use techniques he was familiar with and also went so far as to use products he already predicted was in the Get Cooking pantry, like Gold Forest Grains‘ multitude of products. John Schneider’s steel-cut oats became a “rice” pudding!
Chef Chartrand brought in a mixture of hisbicus punch for the cod tongue soup and caul fat as two of his five ingredients. I’ve heard of melting a fat around a protein before but I had no idea it looked like this! Such an interesting technique!
Competing against other chefs with mystery ingredients isn’t new to Chef Chartrand, a competitor on the Food Network’s Chopped Canada. His episode airs March 7 for those who are interested! In preparation for the TV show, Chef Chartrand had practiced his pasta making skills to under six minutes! Totally went out the window for the night’s fight, consequently making him “spazz out” for the hour. For him, the new cooking environment was equally a distraction but similar to his competitor, Chef Chartrand also stuck with what he knew and even utilized a pressure cooker to cook his lamb hearts for his main plate. No knife cuts for Chef Chartrand by the end of the night, but two spoons in the deep fryer, a cracked egg on the counter, and multitude of scraps that missed the garbage can were his casualties.
One hour went by surprisingly quick and with only ten seconds left in the competition, Chef Chartrand was still cooking and plating! It really was like TV – a nail-biting OMG-get-it-on-the-plate! kind of moment!
And he made it!
A few minutes for the judges to deliberate and score and *drum roll*… the winner is Chef Kozak!
In Knife Fight, the winning chef gets a badass knife with “I won!” engraved. The other chef – “I almost won!”. Edmonton’s Knifewear was the prize sponsor for the event, donating the knives for both chefs!
I’m hoping there will be more commentary on the usage of ingredients, or even some discussion between the audience and the MC on their thoughts. There were numerous murmurs of “what is that?!”, “what’s he doing?” and for myself, a lot of… “Hmm what could you do with…” type of questions. It’d be awesome to hear what other people thought! A chance for the judges to present their scores and criticisms would make it all the more like the TV reality shows as well. Such a great event and I’m looking forward to the next one, slated for late April! Word on the street? It’s Swich Food vs Toast Kitchen!
You can follow Food Fight YEG on Twitter for more details and news on the next fight. The idea is to have a series of fights every couple of months and to have winners come back to compete with other winners, tournament style. Totally awesome!
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