The Cheap Bastard Does (and Judges) Iron Fork: So Much Bacon. So Much Awesome.

Last night, a metric shit ton of fancy Dallas people met at the Fashion Industry Gallery to stuff their faces full of awesome.

There was much bacon. Will Fleischman and his beard were slicing up a Lockhart Smokehouse meatfest for the masses. Mixologists were shaking up cocktails whilst wearing their newsboy caps. There were old dudes sampling bundt cakes. There were young dudes asking, "Who's this Kent Rathbooone guy, anyway?" There was even a kid dancing to Outkast. And oh my crap, there was so much bacon. If the night taught me anything, it was this: Bacon needs to be POTUS.

Bacon brought everyone together in a way that no politician ever has. Everyone was smiling, super happy and they all agreed that, "This shit right here is delicious, man."

After all the food and booze sampling came the Observer's second annual Iron Fork competition. I had the honor of being a judge, along with Gene Gates (of The Gene & Julie Show) and CraveDFW's Steven Doyle.

If this competition was an Iron Chef America rip-off, Kent Rathbun was The Chairman. As Rathbun introduced the two competitors (reigning champ, Scott Romano and Whiskey Cake's TJ Lengnick), the crowd put down their bacon and got super quiet.

The Iron Fork challenge: Each chef will have 45 minutes to make two dishes highlighting the secret ingredient. I was nervous for the chefs. What would the secret ingredient be? Last year, it was avocado. This year, would it be octupus? Maybe Bacon Spam?

"And the secret ingredient is... cheese!" Local cheese, including various goat cheeses and some gouda. Alright. I like cheese.

During the first 40 minutes of the competition, both chefs looked cool, calm and collected. They were making pasta, making jokes -- this was no big thang. But with five minutes left, Romano and Lengnick were starting to sweat it. Lengnick was talking to himself, Romano was chopping furiously, both guys were working really hard.

Romano brought his dishes to the judges' table just before time was up. Romano served us a cheese raviolo with egg dish and then a duck dish with beets that included more cheesy pasta. This raviolo was great. Cut into it, and egg beautifully oozed out. It was delicious times a million.

Seriously, there's runny eggy goodness in there.
Seriously, there's runny eggy goodness in there.

Next up, Lengnick. He served us a dish with lobster cheese sticks and then followed that with a plate of scallops with ravioli. He'd been talking up those lobster cheese sticks all through his prep time and I was really excited to try them. They were hidden in what he was calling a "mound" of food. This mound included potatoes, the aforementioned lobster, cheese on top of cheese, chorizo (because, fact: chorizo makes everything better) and probably rainbows. Food mound, you guys. Try it. I promise you'll like it.

Chef TJ Lengnick's food mound of kickassery.
Chef TJ Lengnick's food mound of kickassery.

All the food that these guys made for the judges was fantastic. But, it was time to choose a winner. So, I filled out my ballot.

This is a serious competition.
This is a serious competition.

Gates, Doyle and I headed through a secret passageway to a secret judges deliberating room, where we yelled at each other and fought about whose cheese would reign supreme. "I like mounds!" "I like eggs!" "I love lamp!" "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh fight!"

On this day, egg beat mounds. Romano was crowned the winner, but both contestants served up some really great dishes. If you haven't been to Whiskey Cake, you should definitely go check TJ Lengnick's foodery out. And if you're super rich, you should ask Scott Romano to be your private chef.

After the event, I asked Kent Rathbun if next year's secret ingredient could be Pop Tarts. He said, "Hahahaha." Which I took to mean, "Yes, absolutely, that will definitely happen!"

Thanks to both chefs for kicking ass, thanks to all the folks serving up delicious sample bites (read: bacon), thanks to you badass Dallasites for coming out and stealing the leftovers from my judges plates (Congratulations! You all have The Mouth Herp now!), thanks to Doyle and Gates for putting up with me for an hour and thanks for not taking the microphone away from me after I talked about 8-foot noodles.

Hope to see you all again next year, when the secret ingredient is minotaur.

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