Chefs Under Fire Contest
Which Texan kept calm under pressure: Chefs Under Fire 2011 names its winningchef
Sunday night in Austin, the final round of the Chefs Under Fire rolled out the red carpet for some of Texas’ most esteemed culinary connoisseurs. Guests ate tasty morsels and drank some local wines as they mingled with emcees Devon Broglie (Master Sommelier and wine buyer for Whole Foods Market) and Garrett Weber-Gale (U.S. Olympian swimmer and co-founder of AthleticFoodie™), as well as celebrity judges Chef David Bull of Congress, Chef Tyson Cole of Uchi and Uchiko and Chef Kent Rathbun of Abacus.
Despite the immense pressure, the competitors—Kevin Martinez of Dallas/Forth Worth, Daniel Valenzuela or Austin/San Antonio and Harold Wong of the Houston area—all appeared very cool and collected while spectators watched them prepare their dishes in only thirty minutes.
Chefs were given a list of mandatory secret ingredients, including Ground Longhorn Beef, Idaho Potatoes, Green Onion and Red Beets—the perfect ingredients for a Texas-themed competition. Since the judges were selecting a winner based on taste, presentation and originality, the competitors had to come up with something far more creative than just a hamburger and fries.
Midway through the competition, gears were switched and guests were lead to their tables in the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center. Each table was greeted with a variety of amazing wines handpicked by Sommelier and emcee, Devon Broglie, as well as tasty cheeses from Houston Dairymaids and meats accompanied with unique mustards from The Grateful Bread & Other Good Things.
Rather than an intense competition, it felt more like a gastronomic community there to show support to all of the competitors and fellow colleagues who shared the same common interest, good food. Ticketholders had traveled from all areas of Texas, but to those who could not be there in person, the sense of community was also extended to fans over the web, as audience members were encouraged to tweet during the competition.
As we sampled each of the competitors’ dishes, it was very apparent that the finalists had not only incredible talent, but drive and imagination. And judging each plate would be incredibly challenging.
After much deliberation, the judges came back to the stage and announced their winner, Chef Harold Wong of Houston. His winning dish was named, “Only in Texas"; leaf longhorn pattie paired with sautéed mushrooms accompanied with Idaho chips, fried kale, compressed infused strawberries, with a bit of black berry mash and garnished with ito togarashi, green onions and fried leeks, served on a streak of spicy beet purée.
Fans and audience members also had a say in the competition and were able to vote for their favorite dish via text. The fan favorite was Chef Daniel Valenzuela of Austin/San Antonio. His dish was Idaho potato and green onion purée, green chile longhorn ground beef cake with red beet, and chipotle gastrique.
Unfortunately, the Chefs Under Fire 2011 competition has come to an end, but is only a precursor to what is to come in our local culinary scene. Congratulations to the winners and we look forward to next year’s competition!