It is hard to believe sometimes that we have been doing Foobooz Open Stove Nights at COOK for as long as we have. But by the somewhat suspect accounting of the COOK staff, Wednesday night was our 21st outing and we celebrated it with two great teams, a potato-based challenge, shots of potato vodka, and cases of beer from those potato-loving Czechs behind Pilsner Urquell.
It was a wild night, full of drinking and rivalry and potato chip garnishes and coxcombs. But when the dust settled and the scores were tallied, there could be only one victor. And while only 20 or so people actually got to see the competition first-hand, we’ve come home with photo evidence of how things shook out (which is good, because everyone’s memories are probably a little bit fuzzy right now). So if you couldn’t be there yourself, click through the jump and check out what happened once the shots were poured and the tater tots hit the tables…
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So last week, before all the madness of the Thanksgiving holiday (and all its attendant drinking and regrets), we threw a little party of our own. It was just us, twenty or so of our nearest and dearest, and two of the best sous chefs in the city who’d come together for one night only at COOK to battle it out for Thanksgiving supremacy.
Our competitors were Chuck Formoso who possesses a formidable Ron Swanson mustache and will soon be behind the stoves at the forthcoming Petruce et al and Keith Krajewski, who was once kicked out of the CIA (the cooking one, not the other one) but didn’t let that stop him from becoming sous chef at Marigold Kitchen. Despite us saddling them with all manner of questionable Turkey Day staples (like bagged stuffing, fried onions and canned cranberry sauce), and, at one point, making the chefs stop cooking entirely so that their assistants had to finish dishes in their stead, both teams came up with some spectacular plates. Granted, a liberal application of pumpkin vodka and mystery beers to the crowd might’ve helped a little, but if you click through the jump and check out some of what we got to eat last week, I think you’ll agree that both sides handled themselves with skill and brought honor to their houses.
Of course, at the end, only one man could claim victory…
Show me the pictures already…
We have done a lot of these Foobooz Open Stove Nights. Almost twenty of them now, by my count.
And we’ve had good nights and bad nights. Nights where we messed with the chefs a lot, and nights where we more or less left them alone to do their own thing. We have taken away tools and ingredients, made them cook with gefilte fish, SPAM and gummy bears. We haven’t made anyone cry yet, but we’ve come close.
Never before though have we had an Open Stove Night like last night’s Open Stove Night at COOK. While we have, by necessity, developed a kind of what-happens-at-Open-Stove-stays-at-Open-Stove kind of mentality, I can say that we messed with our contestants last night in some truly remarkable ways. We made them switch sous chefs. Then we made them switch back. We f’ed with the clock, threatened them with a dance battle, made them cook with Kraft macaroni and cheese and a selection of truly awful junk food picked up from the fanciest 7-11 in all of Rittenhouse Square. We made them do shots. We made the crowd do shots. And in the end, despite all of that, Jonnathan Yacashin from Noord (who won the night by one of the closest margins we’ve ever seen), Mack Horebe from the Saint James and their sous chefs performed with amazing restraint and aplomb, cooking some of the finest dishes we’ve had at any Open Stove since the games began.
And yes, I am saying that Pringles-crusted steak, macaroni-and-cheese-stuffed squash blossoms and Swedish Fish demiglace are some of the finest dishes we’ve ever had. Don’t believe me? Get yourself a ticket to next month’s Open Stove and come see for yourselves.
Or, you know, you could just check out the pictures from last night after the jump and pretend like you were one of the lucky few who joined us for our Junk Food Rumble…
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So last night was our big, Best of Philly 40th Anniversary Open Stove Masters showdown, pitting Joe Cicala from Le Virtu against Joey Baldino from Zeppoli in a five-course, knock-down, drag-out culinary battle to the death. And it was a night that truly had everything–from Cicala showing up with no sous chef and cooking the entire night solo (a first for Open Stove) to Solo himself, Michael Solomonov, showing up out of the blue to hang out, shake hands and check in on the competitors.
Since we had two incredibly talented Italian chefs in the house, we gave them the worst Italian ingredients we could find to work with–dry, grocery store pasta, plastic shaker cans full of generic parmesan cheese, Italian salad dressing and the like. We shocked them with ingredients, we messed with their heads, we forced them to cook on a wickedly short schedule (35 minutes to plate 22 finished entrees). And yet the guys still triumphed–knocking out course after amazing course of Italian grub for the packed house.
In the end, it was Team Zeppoli that brought home the win. But it was a close and hard-fought contest. And for those of you not lucky enough to be in attendance, we had champion shooter and friend of Foobooz, Yoni Nimrod, on hand to snap some gorgeous pictures.
Check ‘em out after the jump. Don’t forget to pick up a Best of Philly issue (on the stands right now). And be looking out for our next sneak preview of the new COOK schedule coming later this week.
Show me the pictures
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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Now that we’ve just started April, let’s take a peek at May’s schedule of COOK classes, going live Monday at 2 pm. You know, so you can plan ahead, stay ahead of the game, be proactive and not reactive. All that stuff.
And May is looking mighty fine, too: Pat Szoke of The Industry will be grilling up some meats Aussie-style. There’s pie-making with Holly Ricciardi of Magpie, a rum cocktail Dinner with Krista Dumser of Leblon Cachaca and SPTR/American Sardine Bar’s Scott Schroeder. And of course, the Foobooz Open Stove night—which is just all kinds of awesome and, last time, included shots of moonshine and chefs doing terrible things to marshmallow Peeps.
So let’s take a look at the schedule, shall we?
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Last night was another one of our Open Stove Nights at COOK–a night where we brought together incredibly talented chefs from some of the best restaurants in the city, put them up in front of a crowd of their adoring fans, and then tried really hard to make them cry.
This time around we had Scott Megill from Talula’s Table out in Kennett Square and Matt Broeze from Russet in Rittenhouse Square. Both places are lovely, restrained examples of the modern farm-to-table style of cookery, where talented kitchens turn out beautifully composed plates utilizing nothing but the best, freshest and most local ingredients. As such, we figured that the proper way to honor such dedication to terrain and terroir was to offer them a spread of secret ingredients that were also local.
So local, in fact, that they came from just a few hundred feet away from the COOK kitchen.
From the 7-11 right down the street.
So what happens when you make dedicated, farm-to-table chefs cook with barbecue potato chips, 7-11 coffee, Tostitos queso dip, corn nuts, marshmallow Peeps, Froot Loops and squeezable grape jelly? Check out the snaps from COOK photographer and Friend of Foobooz, Yoni Nimrod collected below and have a look for yourself.
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It’s that time again, folks. The new schedule of COOK classes is going live tomorrow afternoon, but because you are wise and loyal fans of Foobooz, you get to sneak a peek at it early and thereby plan out your assault for tomorrow.
There’s a lot of cool and interesting stuff happening at COOK in April–like an evening with Lee Styer of Fond, “Breakfast of Champions”with Scott Schroeder and George Costa, a shellfish class with Joncarl Lachman of Noord (which, if I’m not mistaken, is probably the first time he’ll be cooking in Philly in any kind of public way), and our own Foobooz Open Stove night to start the month off right.
Check out the full schedule after the jump.
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Yes, it was an international rumble in Rittenhouse Square last night with a USA-vs-Canada, cross-border throwdown that pitted the pride of Detroit, Scott Schroeder (of South Philly Tap Room and American Sardine Bar), against Toronto’s own Nick Macri ,the charcuterie wizard of Southwark. It was a battle of the beards. It was a battle for national pride which, at a certain point, devolved into a drinking contest (as such things often do). It was an epic struggle between two chefs who may have forgotten some of their ingredients and left good sense at the door, but never forgot how much was riding on their victory or defeat.
It was Foobooz Open Stove Night IX and it was one for the record books. Thankfully, COOK’s faithful photographer Yoni Nimrod was there to capture it all on film. So for those of you who missed it, here’s a taste of how things looked from the inside.
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It’s that time again, folks. Time for the wise among you to start planning for your October adventures at COOK.
As we do every month, we’re offering you a sneak peek at the schedule so that you can formulate a plan of attack for when tickets go on sale–a way to get everything you want as fast as you can, before the best classes inevitably begin selling out.
So take a look, make a list, and then be ready to make with the clicky-clicky when COOK opens up registration at 2pm on Monday the 10th.
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