Putting art into the eats at Arts, Beats and Eats

There is a big difference between a cook and a chef.  Cooks can read recipes and make very good meals. A chef, on the other hand, is truly an artist.  He or she can look at a bunch of ingredients and create something magnificent.

Nothing put that contrast into sharper focus than my experience judging the first two rounds of The Duel-Arts, Beats and Eats … a competition for chefs from around the city who will be competing during the Arts, Beats and Eats Festival Labor Day weekend.  Monday (August 23) narrowed the field from seven down to the four that will be competing for cash prizes and bragging rights.

Held at the Mirepoix Cooking School, this version of The Duel is a takeoff on a popular team-building exercise they teach at the school.  Requirements for The Duel were pretty straightforward. Each chef had to use a mystery ingredient in his or her dishes for both rounds.  Round one featured corn and round two featured cherries.

The results were delicious.  I had no idea a soup using corn could be as smooth or soothing as the soup Chef Marc from Wolfgang Puck Grille created.  If you ever want a decedent desert, find Chef Reva from Joe’s Produce and Gourmet Market.  Everything she prepared was delicious, which made her outstanding black forest chocolate souffle with a cherry garnish all the more noteworthy.

I love to eat and am normally never nervous when I step up to a table.  On this occasion, I will admit I was nervous.  Each cuisiner was taking this competition very seriously.  While The Duel was billed as an Iron Chef style competition, I found that description to be a bit of a misnomer.  There was very little chaos or frenetic activity.  Instead, there was fierce determination from each competitor.  The cooking school kitchen was quiet and calm throughout the competition, yet you could feel a tension in the air.  Because each chef was so serious, I wanted to make sure I gave each culinarian a fair shake.

After two rounds, the field was narrowed to:

Chef Marc Djozlija  from Wolfgang Puck Grille

Chef Brandon Wolschleger from Table 5

Chef Reva Constantine from Joe’s Produce and Gourmet Market

Chef Zach F. Stotz from Atlas Global Bistro

The final two rounds take place during the Arts, Beats and Eats festival on the Mirepoix Cooking School International Stage Labor Day Weekend.  Round three takes place on Friday, September 2 at 2:30, where the field will be narrowed to the final two competitors.  The final round takes place on Sunday, September 4 at 2:30.

Whatever the result, this competition proved to me a chef is more than just a hash slinger.  The adroitness they displayed Monday proved to me that a master of any creative endeavor is a true artist.

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