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.

Once all of the guests had arrived, found their seats and gotten their first drinks in front of them, the chefs got to work with Team Townsend whipping up a “twist of a breakfast sandwich,” French-style, with chicken liver, poached quail egg and Mornay sauce mounted inside a tiny gougére. Costa’s Team R2L filled little bowls with hearts of palm creme, crowned with crab salad and fennel.

And everything was going smoothly until the secret ingredients were announced: in honor of National Frozen Food Month, the chefs would have to work with frozen waffles, tater tots, mozzarella sticks, veggies, and cranberries. Oh, and Jameson, because St. Patrick’s Day.


Clams with seared mozzarella sticks from chef Thalita Costa

Costa’s team was assigned the mozzarella sticks for their appetizer, which they seared and used to top off their clam dish with bok choy and a fried waffle crumble. Stebbins served scallops with mango, Thai basil oil, bok choy, cranberries and fried waffle. Because you know what’s a lot better than you think it is? Fried waffle.

About halfway through cooking the appetizer course came the first physical challenge: A game host Jason Sheehan likes to call Edward Tong Hands which involves one of the chefs having two sets of tongs electrical taped to his hands. The crowd chose Stebbins for this honor, and he didn’t care a bit as far as his cooking was concerned—the real challenge was holding his beer, which he managed to do like a pro.

Shortly after Stebbins was allowed to rip the tongs off his hands, Costa had the next challenge—sitting out for five minutes while her sous did all the work. She spent her time-out doing a shot of Jameson and chatting with diners. When her five minutes were up, Costa re-joined her sous chef to finish up the entree with eight minutes left on the clock.

Drinking a beer with Tong Hands

Drinking a beer with Tong Hands

Team Costa served a funky, twenty-eight day dry-aged ribeye cap with brussels sprouts, black garlic sauce, duck pancetta, and the creatively reconstructed tots with mushrooms and Jameson. Team Stebbins presented fancy plates of duck, honeycomb mushroom with Jameson, a squash puree, and ramp powder.


Duck entree from Team Stebbins

Then it was time for dessert, which for Team Townsend was a panna cotta with ginger and pistachio streusel, burnt honey caramel, and a mint chili sauce–a dish you might find at Peralta’s Marigold Kitchen on any night of the week. R2L served up dulce de leche (from Costa’s beloved personal stash sent by her mother in Brazil) with yogurt sorbet, cranberries, and basil and mint sauce.

In the end, it was a close call between the two, but team R2L took the win by just a single point.

Thalita Costa wins Open Stove XLII

Thalita Costa wins Open Stove XLII

Editor’s Note: R2L is now 3-0 at Open Stove. Costa joins Wade Wright and John Calvert as winners.