Look at ’em. They look so happy. So calm. So unaware of what’s coming…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
So we went and did it again. Because if it was fun the first time, then it just has to be fun the thirty-first time, right?
When it comes to Open Stove night, absolutely. And this time we had the sous chefs from two decidedly Southern restaurants, Percy Street and Rex 1516, come together for a battle that depended on their knowledge of distinctly Northeastern ingredients (plus some kitchen trivia, and their ability to hold their liquor). The results were, as usual, surprisingly good for the number of challenges we threw up before them, and on occasion amazing.
In case you couldn’t make the scene at COOK to see Percy Street’s Marc Campana go up against Evan Kelly of Rex 1516 (which, considering the limited number of seats and the speed at which they sell out, probably covers most of you), we were there with our camera to capture the best of the night’s action. So check out the snaps after the jump.
A battle between two masters of Japanese flavors, our 29th Open Stove was an epic that, despite physical challenges designed to irritate and confound the competitors, left spectators impressed. William Lindsay, sous chef at Morimoto (assisted by fellow sous Doug Allen), went head to head with Phila Lorn, sous chef at CoZara (assisted by Angelo LaBate, also of CoZara). Each team led off aggressively, plating heavy-duty amuses that left nobody wondering whether or not they were were playing to win…