It’s a wonder that any of the contestants of “Citywide 86’d,” a competition inspired by the Food Network show Chopped, managed to boil a teaspoon of water under the crazy conditions they were subjected to. The kitchen of Austin’s Uchiko (which co-sponsored the event with its sister restaurant Uchi) was clogged with camera- and iPhone-wielding reporters and bloggers and friends of the cooks, who mostly just got in the way while the competitors raced from stove to counter to sink. Flames leapt, knives flashed, sauté pans sizzled, spoons were flung across cutting boards, and liquid nitrogen steamed.
But somehow the four cooks managed to focus. Just like in Chopped, they were given ingredient baskets filled with various products that seem impossible to meld into a single dish. There were three rounds—appetizer, entrée, and dessert—and after each dish was completed and tasted, one chef was eliminated.
The contestants were Joaquin Ceballas from Sway, Dan Gamoran from La Condesa, Corey Macks from Parkside, and Coliman Uribe from Swift’s Attic. The contest—which had no prize except the fun of competing and satisfaction of winning—was open to all employees of invited restaurants (excluding chefs and sous chefs).
The judges included Paula Disbrowe, cookbook author and travel writer; Jeramie Robison, chef de cuisine at Uchi; Elizabeth Winslow, founder of Farmhouse Delivery and Haymakers; and Jennie Chen, author of the blog misohungry.
At the end of the three rounds—which lasted from 20 to 25 minutes each—the last man standing was Joaquin, from Sway. The next two rounds will take place in May and June. There is talk of the June finals being open to the public.
The Appetizer Round: Shrimp, blood orange, yukari, kikurage tree fungus
Joaquin Ceballas from Sway concocted a Thai-inspired shrimp salad while Corey Macks, from Parkside, did blood orange ginger gel and seared shrimp.
Dan Gamoran, from La Condesa, made poached shrimp with a jalapeno and blood orange broth (pictured).
In the end, it was Coliman Uribe, from Switft’s Attic, who was eliminated (after which Paula Disbrowe joked that she heard a door slam and a Moped start up).
The Entrée Round: Brats, green garlic, black radish, galangal
Dan poached the brats in a beer broth with the mustard and green garlic and galangal. He then made a sauerkraut of fennel and black radish, and finished the dish with fresh veggies. He used the poaching liquid to create a sauce with Dijon, green garlic, and the galangal.
Joaquin charred the bratwurst, made a sweet, pickled galangal and onion relish, and mixed maltodextrin powder with habanero and carrots in a Thai style fish and palm sugar glaze.
Corey made a pistachio pesto, grilled the brat, pickled the galangal and garlic, and made a “soil” of some pistachio, but his efforts weren’t enough. He lost.
The Dessert Round: Chocolate, pistachios, goose eggs, guajillo chile
Joaquin powdered chocolate and guajillo with malto dextrin and pistachio oil. He experimented with a frozen egg custard and added texture by topping the dish with a sprinkle of pistachio.
Dan made a guacolate and guajillo polenta, and served sliced fruit in simple syrup.
In the end, it was Joaquin of Sway that impresed the judges enough to be sent to the next round of competition.