Last Monday I had the pleasure of attending the first ever Quickfire Challenge at Perennial Virant. It was totally fun. Thanks to the Dining Diva 312, I was one of 100 people to call within the first 2 hours of it’s availability in order to score 2 free tickets to the event. I have a sneaking suspicious that tickets are only going to become more difficult to come by in the future.
So here’s the synopsis: Chef Paul Virant of his new namesake Perennial Virant was matched with Chef Chris Pandel of the fabulous Bristol in a head to head competition mimicking the famed Quickfire challenges of Top Chef (kind of). Neither chef knew of the ingredients save for the Dietzler Farm beef loin. The competition differed from that of the Top Chef Quickfire in that the other ingredients were alternately selected by the chef from a center table. There was no gigantic pantry to scour nor was there over-laping of ingredients. Each chef chose only 5 ingredients (although some basics, oil, citrus, etc were provided for both).
It was definitely a weird spread of ingredients, I must say. It included things like margarita mix, quinoa, grapefruit, peanut butter, avocado, velveeta cheese and slab bacon, wonder bread and powdered ranch dressing mix, among other things. Huh? Who came up with these ingredients. Not really Top Chef quality, but interesting, none the less.
The event took place outside in front of the restaurant where two huge charcoal grills were set up along with one measley little gas burner.
Chef Virant chose some very unexpected ingredients: wonder bread, ranch powder, kale, velveeta, and PBR (yes, the crappy beer). What?! Isn’t this guy supposed to be all into the farm fresh goodness? Velveeta and ranch? Yikes!
Chef Pandel went for more “real food” ingredients including avocados, jalapenos, peanut butter, slab bacon and kimchi. A strange combo, I thought at first, but the vision soon became more clear.
Here they are cookin’ away…
(It was a beautiful summer night.)
Pandel even tried to plug a vitamix into the flower bed outlet without success. I think he ended up having to go into the kitchen to puree his peanut (butter) marinade for the meat.
The crowd watched over the happenings for the allotted 1 hour cooking time while sipping on a deliciously concocted tequila punch.
I scored a spot by one of the grills!
Nobody knew what to expect until the teams started plating their 100 tasting portions. Grilled wonder bread (sprinkled with ranch?) became the base for an open-face steak and cheese (& beer sauce) sandwich with sauteed kale.
On the other side, a kimchi/avocado mixture was placed underneath the the peanut marinated steak and spicy, jalapeno-grilled onions. Bacon bits, made by grilling and chopping the pork rind, were sprinkled on top.
Honestly, I can’t say that either dish was terribly successful, if the mission was to blow us away (the crowd/judges, that is). And I know I’m not the only one who thought this; I overheard others’ comments along the same lines.
The winning dish was that from Chris Pandel (immediately below).
Overall, I’d say that the event was more successful than the food, but it was super fun and I’d definitely attend again. The rumor is that they’re going to hold these competitions every month and that the next contender, who’s to take on the winning Bristol chef, is Stephanie Izard of yet another BOKA group restaurant, Girl and the Goat. Pandel’s got his work cut out for him with that one. My money’s on the Girl.