"That's what it's about. That's what we do. We represent," said chef Joey Guzman of Northwood Club, when asked about the significance of three Latino finalists in the Chefs Under Fire D/FW semifinal at Milestone Culinary Center, an the event to which City of Ate was invited. The other two Latino chefs were Omar Flores of Abacus and Juan Rodriguez at Reata in Fort Worth. The remaining competitors were Scott Loranc of Central Market Cooking School and Tim Woehr of Abacus.
First held by parent company Keeper Collection in Austin last year, Chefs Under Fire is a mini Iron Chef-style head-to-head, during which five chefs create one dish using secret ingredients within an allotted time. The 2010 edition has been expanded to three Texas regions: Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and Austin-San Antonio. The winner of each semifinal moves on to compete in the final contest to be held in Austin on October 25. Last night's secret ingredients were scallops, one ball squash and buttermilk. Each chef was allowed to bring four ingredients from his kitchen. Throughout the evening, the chefs worked quietly and quickly in the facility's kitchen, while attendees, mostly friends, family and restaurant-industry types milled about munching on the hors d'oeuvres as well as drinking the free St. Arnold's suds and wine from Purple Cowboy and PromisQous.
The event was emceed by radio personality Jim White, co-founder of Savor Dallas. Sharon Van Meter, executive director of the Milestone Culinary Center and chef Scott Gottlich of Bijoux and the Second Floor in the Westin Galleria judged the event. Gina Gottlich, Scott Gottlich's wife and sommelier at the couple's two restaurants gave a short wine tasting that compared the bare-bones, non-oak-aged Ryan Patrick "Naked" with the buttery, oak barrel-aged Hess "Su'skol Vineyard" Chardonnays.
Van Meter and Gottlich named Juan Rodriguez champion. He presented them with a plate of jalapeño powder-dusted day boat scallop, topped with a one ball "spaghetti' squash salad served with a carnival squash purée and a goat cheese-stuffed potato dumpling. The runner-up, named in case Rodriguez cannot attend the Austin final, was Tim Woehr. Alas, we are unable to say what Woehr and the other chefs presented. They were a modest, soft-spoken lot.
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There is nothing like, nothing better than the original Iron Chef. Nothing. It was funny, furious and lacked of the pretense of its offspring. The chairman, the commentators and judges didn't take themselves seriously. Kent Rathbun, a judge for the Chefs Under Fire final, who also competed on Food Network's Iron Chef America alongside his brother Kevin -- beating the pants off of Bobby Flay -- was present to support his boys. We asked him to share his thoughts on Iron Chef copycats. "Iron Chef gives chefs excellent ingredients and a well-equipped kitchen. It's important that any similar competition do the same," said Rathbun. Whatever Chefs Under Fire D/FW was like, whatever food was made, this blogger was proud to see Latinos gain some recognition and to see one come out on top.