Chef vs. Chef

Local chefs go head-to-head in bi-monthly culinary battles



PHOTO SUPPLIED BY PILAR RAMIREZ

Three secret ingredients, two local chefs, just one hour to cook. It’s a culinary confrontation, a gastronomic gala, a Food Network show come to life right before the eyes of Edmonton foodies.

The hottest ticket in the local food scene these days is Edmonton Food Fight, a live event modeled after the TV show Knife Fight, where two chefs battle it out for culinary supremacy. The first event, held Feb. 21 in the Get Cooking kitchen in the MacEwan University residence, saw Brayden Kozak from Three Boars Eatery take down Shane Chartrand from Sage at the River Cree Resort and Casino. When tickets went on sale for the second edition — which was held on April 24 and saw Alexei Boldireff of S’WICH Food Truck go up against Spencer Thompson of Toast Fine Catering — they were gone in less than an hour.

The quick sellout is “validation of the event itself, but also of the excitement that’s around Edmonton’s food scene,” says Mike Hudema, who organizes Edmonton Food Fight alongside Get Cooking founder Kathryn Joel. “There are a lot of people who are enjoying a lot of the different restaurants Edmonton has to offer, and the chance to see two elite chefs prepare in person, go head-to-head, that’s pretty exciting for folks.”

During each Food Fight, the chefs are presented with three secret ingredients, from which they must make at least two separate dishes. They also have access to a pantry of staple items, and can bring a small number of their own ingredients. After the ingredient reveal, the chefs have 10 minutes to plan and then 60 minutes to cook. A panel of judges — including other chefs and food bloggers — then taste each dish and pick a winner.

For the February event, the secret ingredients included Jerusalem artichokes, lamb hearts and cod tongues. The first two were locally sourced; the cod tongues were imported from Iceland.

“We asked [other chefs and foodies] what would be good ingredients, what types of things chefs would be excited to work with but would also challenge them,” Hudema says. “We also wanted to make sure at least two of the ingredients were local.”

The atmosphere at that event, he adds, was “lively and raucous,” as food fans further back could watch the action on big-screen TVs throughout the kitchen while an MC talked to the chefs as they cooked. A live DJ spun tunes in between interviews.

Getting chefs to enter the culinary thunderdome is not a tough sell, it turns out — in fact, the Boldireff-Thompson matchup was sparked when they challenged each other publicly via Twitter the day after the first battle.

Going forward, Hudema hopes to hold Food Fights every couple of months, leading up to a “tournament of champions” later this year.

“We want to do a food-truck battle. We want to do a vegan battle. We want to do an Italian battle. Hopefully we can get some good skill-to-skill fights happening as we move along.”

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