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culinary competition

My Culinary Fight Fest experience: I would walk 500 miles!

It had happened again: our car had broken down and DH and I were walking back home, sweaty and exhausted, in the asphyxiating heat of the summer. I had asked him to pick me up from Culinary Fight Fest downtown, and he, the ever-helpful husband, had agreed – but now we were stuck 5 miles away from home, with little money left after towing the car to the repair shop, and not willing to spend extra on a cab. We were walking and talking, and suddenly it hit me: By yourself, the journey is long – but you can walk 500 miles when you have friends to help along the way 😉 Every time I attend a Culinary Fight Club competition I notice surprising things, which previously escaped me. At this edition, I noticed joy: the pure, unadulterated joy of the CFC organizers who were engaged in a meaningful project as friends, walking the long path of life together, as one big family. Re-energized by these thoughts, my draining walk home after the competition alongside DH (my best friend) became easy and made perfect sense 🙂

Currently in its second edition, Culinary Fight Fest Chicago took place at Hard Rock Cafe earlier this month. Chefs who had won either the judges’ vote or the public’s vote at a previous Culinary Fight Club event were invited to compete against chefs who had won other different themed competitions in various cities across the country. A veritable Clash of Culinary Titans, Culinary Fight Fest was also an excellent opportunity to raise money for Fight2Feed, a non-profit organization that feeds the hungry across Chicagoland. It was a display of competitive spirit intermingled with awesome camaraderie – “the best time of my life,” as one contestant put it.

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Culinary Fight Club Steak Challenge: unique talent competes again – for the common good

Chef Stephen Sandoval celebrating his win in the Chicago Culinary Fight Club Steak Challenge

“Do you want to try it?,” Chef Stephen Sandoval asked me, spoon on hand, ready to share the last remaining bits of Oaxacan mushroom&pasilla purée. I had been pestering him about his dish, but the music was loud, the smoke cloud-thick, and communication was difficult, so what better way to answer my questions than to let me try his food one more time? The proof is in the food, as they say – and the steak Chef Sandoval had prepared in the Culinary Fight Club competition was a thing of beauty: melt-in-your-mouth, aromatic New York strip steak sitting pretty on a velvety blanket of spicy purée, with cherry-churri and a crispy piece of Patagonian-style potatoes on top. Brimming with grilled cherries poached in balsamic, the smokiness of the cherry-churri instantly reminded me of the dried prunes I used to enjoy as a child. Same depth of sticky flavor, same unmistakable honest and true aroma, unadulterated and vibrant, like a child in the countryside. With that cherry-churri, Chef Sandoval had to be crowned the winner – and he was 🙂

This was the second time I attended a Culinary Fight Club competition (here’s a review of my first experience), and I am loving these more and more. In addition to raising money for the less fortunate and to promoting Fight2Feed, a nonprofit organization that delivers service and support to hungry people across Chicagoland, Culinary Fight Club is also an excellent platform for showcasing talent – and the Steak Challenge held in Chicago this week was a case in point. Joining Chef Sandoval (of Leña Brava) at the start of the competition were Chefs Joelle Brown (of Nola Nights Southern Aromas), Geo Phelps (of Chili Rocks) and Corey Rice (a former MasterChef contestant). With such a diverse lineup, we were in for a treat! Keep Reading