About Last Night: Open Stove Masters

So last night was our second Foobooz Open Stove night–our semi-organized, always amusing, frequently bizarre cooking competition which, in its purest iteration, is supposed to be a place for line cooks, sous chefs, grill men and dishwashers to come together and battle it out in order to make a name for themselves in a way that isn’t always possible when they’re being overshadowed by their more well-known bosses and executive chefs.

Last night, though, was not exactly like that. On just our second attempted Open Stove Night, we decided to break our own rules (because that’s just how we roll) and allow into the competition two undisputed professionals: George Sabatino from Stateside and Ben Puchowitz from Matyson. Why did we do this? Because they asked. And because we thought it would be hilarious to torture the crap out of them in front of a live audience.

Which is exactly what we did. And the proof is in the photos–all of which you can find after the jump, courtesy of Yoni Nimroad from Cook who braved the flashing knives and melty cheese to get these shots.

We made the two chefs cook four courses: An amuse bouche (during which we fucked with them not at all), an appetizer (during which we fucked with them quite a bit), an entree (during which we did our best to completely break them) and a dessert (which we let them serve with no hassle). For the appetizer course, they were forced to work with a secret ingredient of our choosing: In this case, individually-wrapped cheese slices.

And this is what a trained chef can do, even when presented with crap ingredients: George Sabatino’s roasted cauliflower with pork tenderloin and pickled mustard seeds in Kraft American Singles sauce, which was fantastic.

One of the worst possible combinations in the food world? Scallops and cheese. And yet, here Ben Puchowitz made it work with a seared scallop over noodles with spring peas and, again, Kraft Singles Sauce.

Second secret ingredient? Radishes, which the two chefs shared like gentlemen. And they thought everything was going smoothly until…

…we took away their sous chefs (giving them seats, cold beers and plates to sample) and replaced them with Jackie and Lily from Cook. And while the ladies acquitted themselves honorably considering the circumstances, taking away a chef’s sous is kind of like removing his right hand–something that we’re thinking about for the next Open Stove Night.

Still, this is the plate that George was able to assemble: Seared scallops with chili oil over a salad of fast-pickled radishes.

And this was Ben’s. Those are pan-roasted turnips tucked in beside the seared pork loin.

After dessert was served (and several more rounds of drinks handed out), the crowd voted and a winner was chosen. Out of a possible sixty points, only two separated the winner from the loser, but the final tally came in at 29 points for Ben and 31 for George–a victory for chef Sabatino, his sous (that’s him standing next to George) and Stateside.

On a final note, one of the things that kept those scores so close? The absolutely unbelievable dessert put up by Ben Puchowitz–a guy who, by his own admission, had never made a dessert before last night. He did a foie gras creme brulee, torched in an eggshell, topped with a coffee whipped cream, a bit of praline and shaved, frozen foie gras and chocolate torchon. It was a singularly amazing dish–one of the best things I’ve eaten in six months–and each portion came with a political message courtesy of the chef. In case you can’t make it out in the picture, his sous had written “LONG LIVE FOIE GRAS” on every shell, in response to the recent California ban.

Without a doubt, I’ll be the first one to follow Ben to the walls should the foie gras-banners ever start up the same kind of nonsense in Philadelphia–and I’m sure I won’t be alone.

Cook [Official website]
Stateside [Official website]
Matyson [Official website]