It was a friendly battle. As friendly as things get when competitors yield large knives.
Dozens of foodies and fans looked on as two local chefs went mano-a-mano during the second "Chef vs. Chef Battle" at Pisces Rising last Sunday. The battle pitted the chef of Mount Dora's Lakeside Inn, Casey Aldridge against chef Clemente Rodriquez of Mary's Kountry Kitchen in Tavares.
The close competition was far from ordinary. The required proteins were rabbit and an unusual black chicken. The chefs also had bounty of exotic fresh produce and micro herbs to use in their dishes.
Aldridge and Rodriguez presented their creations to three judges who rated the dishes on a 1-10 scale in three categories, including, taste, use of secret ingredients, and presentation.
After four dishes, Rodriguez prevailed with a creamy Black Chicken Soup with mirepoix, asparagus, topped with wheat croutons; a coconut-battered rabbit marinated in seasoned cream with siracha. He also dished out a seared flank steak in a bitter melon reduction. Rodriguez also plated a dessert of simmered berries in coconut rum with a light citrus custard sauce over a graham crust.
Alridge's dishes included a Caribbean black chicken risotto with coconut rum, followed by braised rabbit shanks over cauliflower puree and lastly a dish of flank steak tacos with sautéed onions and bok choy.
The organizer and host of the competition, local chef Graham Ellis, wanted to bring the energy and excitement of network TV cooking shows to Mount Dora while creating a hospitality night where restaurant employees could network and unwind.
"I think this competition is creating such a great buzz because it's unique, there is nothing like this in Central Florida, the ingredients are very challenging," said Ellis. "This isn't a cook-off its a chef battle. And it's still has that under ground feel to it."
Although Ellis expects the next Chef vs. Chef battle to take place sometime this spring, culinary arts isn't the only competition he's focusing on. Ellis will be hosting a Bartender Battle and is encouraging people to email their votes for contestant bartenders to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Above: Clemente Rodriguez (left) and Casey Aldridge Below: Rodriguez' Black Chicken Soup
Above & Below: Onlookers at Pisces Rising could watch from the bar or the open kitchen (below_.
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