Wednesday, the last day of Kosherfest 2011, proved even more eventful than I expected. Irving Schild and I started the day by interviewing Alain Bankier (from Manischewitz) which you can hear motzey Shabbat at 8:30pm (Eastern Time) on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Shortly after getting there I was asked if I could take over as the third judge because cookbook author, James Beard Award winner and encyclopedist Gil Marks, had an emergency. The pressure started at this point… I had eaten at the various establishments represented and thought each was truly superlative. This was not going to be easy!
(Photos by: Esti Berkowitz of Primetime Parenting
for The Kosher Scene)
Chef Avram, last year’s Kosherfest Culinary Competition winner, more than ably emceed the event with wit and charm intermingled with educational tidbits. The three contestants were (in alphabetical order): Craig Solomon from Ariel’s (18 Engle St Englewood, NJ 07631; Tel: 201.569.1202)…
Seth Warshaw, from etc steakhouse (1409 Palisade Avenue; Teaneck, NJ 07666; Tel: 201.357.5677)…
Moshe Wendel from Pardes (497 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11217; Tel: 718.797.3880)…
Immediately before hitting the clock to allow 45 minutes for cooking and plating, Chef Avram unveiled the secret ingredient…
Each Chef was allowed to bring something from his restaurant, each one’s individual style shone through as they made three plates each. Chef Solomon showed the gracefulness and precision of a well trained ballet dancer; Chef Warshaw betrayed no nervousness under pressure and was the first one to plate, with over a minute to spare; Chef Wendel, ever the innovator, performed his magic with unusual ingredients.
Chef Craig brought in habanero peppers and sugar cane, Chef Seth used pomegranate – his signature ingredient, while Chef Moshe preferred the exotic. He brought in amba, a tangy Iraqi mango pickle condiment, which he made into a heavy sauce.
The judges walked around to observe each chef in action. We were looking for cleanliness, technique and overall mastery, while Chef Avram periodically announced the countdown and kept the audience entertained throughout. A few minutes before the clock came to a stop the three of us sat down and readied to taste.
First to serve was Chef Seth he presented each of us with a beautiful tower of duck resting over three cornmeal johny or journey cakes. Next came Chef Solomon who showed had he cooked and moved with precision and graceful elegance but his square presentation looked like an architectural masterpiece. Chef Moshe served a very aromatic duck covered with a generous helping of amba, another beautiful presented very succulent dish as I’d come to expect from him!
Each dish tasted very different, each showed the consummate professionalism and artistry of its creator. Incredible how the same basic ingredient can be made so differently! It was hard to decide which was best – specially as we tasted in very quick succession washing out our mouths in between each dish. The maximum number of points, per Chef, per judge, was 30 points for a total a grand total of 90. All three were within one or two points away, after a few minutes of deliberation in a back room (where each judge explained the rational for his grading on preparation, presentation and taste) we finally had a winner…
Seth Warshaw from Teaneck’s etc steakhouse!
After the competition we visited with Brigitte Mizrahi, CEO of Anderson International Foods, makers of Sugar River, Les Petites Fermieres, and Natural & Kosher brand cheeses. Sugar River won this year’s Kosherfest Best New Cheese Award. You can hear the interview tomorrow eve.
From there we proceeded to Jack’s Gourmet (see here and here), while I had a pretty good idea (having tasted it at Dr. Broner’s while they were perfecting it, a couple of months ago) why they won this year’s Best New Sausage Award though I still was surprised by how much they had an improved an already delicious recipe. Needless to say, we kept on coming back again and again… As an old TV commercial used to say: Betcha can’t eat just one! Hear the interview with Dr. Broner tomorrow evening.
The wines we tasted at various price points were superb, proving yet again that great wines can be (and are!) kosher. Shortly before leaving, I run into Alex Veyg, from veygsgourmet.com. This young man produces a line of delicious natural flavored honeys and he too will be on our internet radio show, tomorrow evening – mothzey Shabbos – at 8:30 pm (Eastern Time). You will tune us in, won’t you?