Saturday's Rock Your Taco battle at the Austin Food & Wine Festival was a full on food fight. The smack talk started days before with participating chefs vowing to take down two-time champion, Chef Tyson Cole.
The 14 chefs competing for the title brought their best to the game, elevating the humble street food to new heights with unusual proteins and ingredient combinations that you aren’t likely to find at your local taqueria.
The Texas crew served some of the most flavorful tacos of the night. Chef David Bull of Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen had a clear crowd favorite with his Black Heart Taco. It looked more like a hotdog, but had all the right components — rich goat heart morcilla sausage with chicken liver mousse, with a bright parsley salad and lemon crema on perfectly cooked corn tortillas.
Returning champion Chef Tyson Cole of Uchi and Uchiko served a Kiiro Meshi taco, a San Antonio-style puffy taco topped with tender sea bass and a crunchy corn salad. The seafood taco was a refreshing bite in a crowd of rich, meaty tacos. Chef Bryce Gilmore of Odd Duck and Barley Swine dished up a “Goat Revolution” taco, featuring roasted goat served on a fluffy goat fat tortilla topped with goat cheese. It might seem like a small touch, but Gilmore’s tortilla was the best taco wrapper of the night, and when you eat 14 tacos, you notice the tortilla.
Houston Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly stirred up a bit of controversy with his smoky Korean braised beef taco about whether lettuce counted as a taco shell (the Twitter crowd said no). Regardless, the rich, spicy beef was delicious. Chef John Currence flexed some serious taco muscle with his crowd pleaser. The Mississippi Red Neck taco featured braised lamb neck on a soft corn tortilla with a sprinkling of corn, cotija cheese and a smoky red salsa.
At the end of the night, the chef’s lined up on stage to find out who the judges deemed the taco master. Top Chef All-Stars winner Richad Blais unseated Cole as reigning Rock Your Taco champion. His octopus and lamb picadillo taco, a flavorful meat and seafood fusion taco, earned one of the longest lines of the night.