Open Stove XLII: Tong Hands and Tater Tots

Cooking with Jameson

Cooking with Jameson

Ever see a guy drinking a beer with tongs as hands? Me neither–at least not until Wednesday night when chef Matt Stebbins of Townsend did just that.

And that was just one of the night’s Open Stove challenges, but we’ll get back to that soon.

On this, the 40-something Open Stove night at COOK, it was chef Thalita Costa and sous chef Chal Houng of R2L versus Stebbins of Townsend and sous chef Felias Peralta of Marigold Kitchen. 

The night began out with Team Townsend looking confident and Stebbins cracking jokes while Peralta chopped away at some mangoes. Meanwhile, on the other side of the kitchen, Team R2L was looking pretty chill (maybe a little nervous), just sipping on their Modelos and waiting for everything to go wrong.

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About Last Night: They Do It On Top Chef All The Time…

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We’ve been doing Open Stove nights at COOK for a long time now. We call it episode 41, but really there have been more like 45, maybe 50. There are a few early ones and a few weird ones that just never seem to make the count. Call them the Lost Open Stoves.

But regardless, we’ve done a lot of these. And for this one–a battle between crews from Local 44 and Rex 1516–we were looking for a new sort of challenge for the chefs. Something we hadn’t done before. And at the very last minute, we decided to do someting that I’ve been wanting to try for a long time now. A challenge crippling enough that, when I first announced it, midway through the appetizer round, the chefs and their sous just kind of stood there for a minute, assuming I was kidding.

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Have You Got What It Takes To Compete At Open Stove?

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Can you make dinner for 18 people in 35 minutes, starting from scratch?

What would you make with a bowl full of conversation hearts, some High Life, two venison loins and individually-wrapped cheese slices?

Can you name all of the mother sauces while I hum the Jeopardy theme song directly in your ear? After a couple rounds of absinthe?

How knowledgeable are you regarding mid-80’s comedy movies and can you answer trivia questions about them while wearing a tiny sombrero?

If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions and are also a working cook or chef, then you might be exactly who we’re looking for as a competitor in this year’s run of Foobooz Open Stove nights at COOK.

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About Last Night: The One Where No One Saw Strange Brew, But At Least We Had Tiny Sombreros

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Thinking caps that guests wore for trivia rounds, and Jason wore for fun.

It is imperative that you do the following tonight: crack open a beer, introduce your backside to the couch, and put on Strange Brew. Do not pass go.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about last Wednesday. The event was Open Stove XXXIX, themed (you could say loosely) around Beer Week, steak houses, and a little bit of Fireball. And teeny, tiny sombreros.

In what is turning into a recurrent nightmare for Jason during the trivia portion of our Open Stove events, no one had seen Strange Brew (recall the Barfly incident). Prepared for disappointment this time, however, we came armed with thinking caps and more than enough alcohol to ensure that even those who hadn’t seen the movie would, by the end of the night, almost believe they had.

Click through for all the laughter, tears and tiny hats. Yeah, we have pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

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About Last Night: What Do You Mean You People Have Never Seen Barfly?

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No, seriously. It is a great goddamn movie–probably the single drinkiest film ever, and features a young Mickey Rourke (before he became a poster child for plastic surgery gone wrong) playing Charles Bukowski, in a movie written by Charles Bukowski. And what’s more, it has a serious Philly connection: Bukowski spent three years living, working, drinking and getting his teeth punched out here before writing the screenplay, and used his time in our fair city as the basis for all the action that happens in the film. The L.A. bar in which most of the film takes place? Based on a place where Bukowski drank at 17th and Fairmount.

And what stunned me last night was that during the trivia portion of last night’s all-cocktails Open Stove battle at COOK, I asked for a show of hands from the crowd.

“How many of you here have seen Barfly?” I asked.

No hands went up.

“What about the bartenders. You guys have seen Barfly, right?”

No hands went up.  The only two people in the entire place who’d ever seen it were me and Art.

So much for the trivia…

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Open Stove 35: When Mise En Scene Becomes Mise En Place

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We could have given them liver and a nice glass of Chianti to see what dishes they’d come up with, but Adam Ratmoko and Sean Korcal had it made from the start.

The theme of the 35th edition of Open Stove at COOK was “Celebrate the Movies”, a nod to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Flower Show. And when I say “a nod” I mean a direct rip-off, in the most flattering way possible.

Honestly, can you blame us? The contenders for the evening basically wrote the theme themselves. On one side of the stove, Adam Ratmoko was assisted by Joe McConnell, both representing team Strangelove’s which shares a name with Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film. On the other side, Sean Korcal took lead, assisted by last month’s Open Stove contender, Geno Betz, both from Bardot Cafe, itself named for French film ingenue, Brigitte Bardot.

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About Last Night: I Heart You THIS Much…

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome once again to the drama, the suspense, the creativity (and the aftermath) of Philadelphia’s own cutthroat culinary competition! February 4th brought the 34th edition of Open Stove to COOK, this time a head-to-head fight to the death* between Geno Betz of Paradiso and Dominic Santora of Kanella.

There was laughter. There were tears. There were chicken hearts and candy. And luckily, I was there to document it all. So here’s how the night played out.

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About Last Night: Masters, Cooking Masterfully


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The story line of Open Stove XXXIII is an odd one: For the first time, the competition was comprised of two graduates of the COOK Masters Program: Christopher Ritter of The Grubhouse and Kris Serviss of Blue Duck Sandwich Company. For those of you who don’t know, the COOK Masters Program is an annual, free instructional cooking series at COOK, taught by some of the country’s biggest culinary names, for students who are truly passionate about pursuing a professional career in the restaurant industry. So we took two people who’ve graduated from the program, put them up against one another, and watched them fight it out.

Weirdly enough, one of them brought an orthodontist as his sous.

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