So yes–unless you were one of the 20-some people in attendance at COOK last night, you once again missed out on witnessing the most insane two-and-a-half hours in all of professional cooking. More pressure than Top Chef, crazier than Iron Chef, and with WAY more drinking than in any cooking show on TV (unless you’re watching Martha Stewart), Open Stove Night is the absolute apex of the competitive cooking oeuvre. A moment where the best chefs in the city come together to turn breakfast cereals, beer, gummy bears, Twinkies, pickled green peppercorns, bacon powder, Doritos and SPAM into some of the most amazing dishes you have ever tasted in your life.
No, really. You have not really eaten until you have tasted the work of some exhausted, tequila-drunk sous chef who just barely got his version of Fruity Pebbles-crusted halibut with lychee salad and gummy-bear-thickened bechamel to the line as the last seconds were ticking off the clock, saving himself the shame and humiliation of having to do the “I Didn’t Cook Fast Enough” dance in front of a room of cheering food nerds.
Last night’s competitors were two winners from previous contests. Yehuda Sichel from Zahav took on Stephan Stryjewski of Sola BYOB in Bryn Mawr. And everything started out so nice, with a bread course (which was effing delicious on both sides), a plated amuse bouche, shots of Bacardi 151, and then a gentle appetizer course where all we asked was that they cook using the beautiful, fresh lychees we’d just picked up at the Asian market. We even gave them extra time, just so they’d both feel welcome in our little culinary Thunderdome.
And then we dropped the hammer. What came next was a panicked 40 minutes of flashing knives, tears and fire as the chefs were both forced to cook with multiple secret ingredients chosen for them by the audience. Secret ingredients like curry paste, Guinness, pickled peppercorns, Pocky and horseradish powder. We kept loading on the challenges until one team came out victorious. And for those of you who weren’t there, here’s what it looked like from the inside–as captured by COOK photo ninja and Friend of Foobooz, Yoni Nimrod.
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