It was noisy, as usual. There were heat, sweat and smoke all over the miniature grills they were expertly maneuvering. Ever so often, one chef’s hands would shake, as if hit by a cold breeze. And yet, there was no breeze in sight, just pure human emotion and plenty of adrenaline rush. Hands and hearts were trembling because at stake was the title of 2018 Culinary Fight Club Grand Champion. Not anyone could do it, and these chefs were the best: there had been twenty at the start, and only four of them were now nearing the finish line.
I’m no stranger to Culinary Fight Club competitions (check out my reviews here, here and here), and as such I am familiar with their format and supportive of their mission to reward culinary excellence and to feed the hungry. Nothing compares to seeing culinary competitions unfold in front of you – the tension, the sweat, the drama, it’s all so intense. Pressure? Check! Surprises? Check! Delicious food? Of course! 🙂
Culinary Fight Club (CFC) The Final Plate took place at Morgan MFG over the course of two days. On day #1, twenty chefs from nine CFC cities competed for the chance to move further in the competition and win $10,000 in cash and prizes. At the end of a grueling first day, the four chefs with the highest number of votes were revealed and were asked to return the following day for the ultimate battle. As usual with CFC competitions, 20% of the funds collected from ticket sales went on to support Fight2Feed, an organization dedicated to eradicating hunger and reducing food waste.
The four chefs faced a 45 minute Mystery Basket Challenge and worked against the clock to make a delicious dish featuring the secret ingredient pork chops. Here’s the pork & sausage dish prepared by local Chef Kris Schoenberger from BBQ’d Productions, who came in at #4 at the end of the competition:
At #3 was California-based Chef Ryan Rondeno, who has cooked for Hollywood stars such as Will Smith and Ben Affleck (!).
Chef Rondeno’s dish involved a daring marriage of pork and blueberry flavors:
In at #2 was Chef Josh Reeves from The River Club in Atlanta, GA:
Chef Reeves paired the pork chops with hash, sausage and eggs:
The winner of the competition was Chef Gregg Brackman from G Bar and Kitchen in Swampscott, MA:
Chef Brackman served the seared pork chops with a garden pancake featuring russet and sweet potatoes, carrots, apples and onions:
After these dishes were submitted to the five professional judges, each chef had to cook a separate dish for the public, who were then asked to vote for their favorite. The public’s vote accounted for 20% of the final score.
Chef Gregg Brackman made a pork&pepper salad. This dish, which reflected Brackman’s Italian-American background, stroke a delicate balance between fresh and cooked elements, and provided lots of flavor and refreshing authenticity. Loved the pickled beet and pepper sauce, loved the crispy potatoes!
Meanwhile, Chef Josh Reeves showcased his versatility with this dish of beef bulgogi with bok choy & cucumber kimchi. I was torn between this dish and Chef Brackman’s salad, and picking a favorite was very difficult. While the sauce in Chef Brackman’s dish was luscious and multifaceted, the beef in Chef Reeves’ dish was melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
The dessert made for the public by Chef Ryan Rondeno was a fitting sweet finale. This apple fritter with charred blueberry compote was charming in its simplicity, and so light to digest! Flavorful elegance was the name of the game:
I love Culinary Fight Club competitions for various reasons. As a foodie, I rejoice in the opportunity to try out dishes prepared by some of this country’s best chefs. As an involved citizen, I want to support CFC’s mission to make the world more nutrient-accessible for the least fortunate among us. As a competitive being, I love to watch the chefs’ food-fueled battles, the adrenaline rush, the sweat, the raised brows and the tears. Food with a heart, chefs on a mission, flavors galore – what’s not to like? 🙂
*Disclaimer: While I received complimentary tastings to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.