8 Chefs. 9 chicken dishes. 1 new menu place up for grabs.
Last week, Sweetwater Tavern and Grille held a (kinda) secret Chicken Cook Off between eight chefs, including Sweetwater Executive Chef Cameron Smith, Bottleneck Corporate Executive Chef Paul Katz, and Bottleneck Director of Kitchen Operations Derek Viehman.
The chefs were to pit their best chicken dishes against each other, with the grand prize being that the winning dish would be added to Sweetwater’s new menu this Spring. I decided to document the occasion, and volunteered myself as a tasting judge in the process.
The Cook Off
It’s sometime after 2pm, and the lunch rush is just starting to slow down (although not by much; it is the first day of March Madness, and the appetizers keep flying out all afternoon).
The participating chefs begin prepping and mixing sauces and glazes, and immediately Chef Paul throws a curveball by announcing that he is creating two different chicken dishes, slyly doubling his chances of winning.
Chef Cameron counters with a solid pan-fried brussels sprout addition.
The competition closes in.
Chef Paul begins plating up his first dish and simultaneously
harassing encouraging the other competitors.**
The first chicken dishes are being lined up, and the clock is ticking.
Around 2:30pm, all the entries are finished, and tasting begins.
After rampant calls for more forks and much deliberation, the judging concludes and the chefs hand in their votes…
And we have a tiebreak! Sweetwater’s Chef Ivy caught everyone’s attention with his spiced chicken with saffron rice and peas (pictured below). His dish goes head-to-head with Chef Paul’s Parmigiano-Reggiano-stuffed French Cut Chicken Breast for a final showdown.
The chefs gather again to vote on the leading two dishes and in no way does Corporate Executive Chef Paul blackmail anyone or threaten them with demotion for voting against him.**
The votes are tallied and….
Chef Paul wins!
The Winning Dish
Chef Paul’s winning dish – French Cut Chicken Breast, Stuffed with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, garlic and sage, served with mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, truffle balsamic reduction, and truffle oil (pictured below) – is crowned, and will be added to the brand new Sweetwater lunch and dinner menu being launched in April 2014.
** Note: there was no blackmail or harassment, simply friendly chef banter. All is well in the kitchen.
by Lee Jarvis.