About Last Night: Welcome To The Chocolate Factory

The death of Gene Wilder a few weeks ago hit all of us at Foobooz World HQ pretty hard. So we decided, what better way to honor the man than by having an entire Open Stove competition based around his most iconic character, Willy Wonka?

As it turned out, this was one of those things that was a lot of fun for us and a lot of fun for the crowd. But for the chefs?

Let’s just say that Everlasting Gobstopper gastrique is probably not going onto the menu at Will any time soon.

This time around, the competition was between Sydney Hanick of Team Will and Ryan LaFrance from Team Southwark. And they came into this thing feeling pretty good and pretty confident–figuring that we’d be doing something simple and seasonal like making them cook with fall produce or pumpkin spice lattes or something.

They were even showing off a little bit in the early going. Like those mussel shells below, which LaFrance and Team Southwark had hand-carved individually from cracker dough and stained with squid ink to make edible shells for their amuse bouche.

Pretty, right? And it had to be, because they were up against Team Will’s bone marrow Cheez Whiz stuffed soft pretzel bites.

After that, it was on to the competitive courses, which involved secret ingredients like Wonka Bars, Fizzy Lifting Drink, blueberries, golden eggs, gruel and the aforementioned Gobstoppers. There were shots to be drunk and trivia to be answered (did you know that Roald Dahl, who wrote Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, was an ace fighter pilot and a British spy before becoming a writer?), extra challenges like trying to have the chefs make pancakes and barbecue sauce out of whatever ingredients they had on hand, then more shots.

Both teams had a rather flexible relationship with the time limits on courses, but the did have a good sense of humor about being forced to pair their lovely scallops with blueberries and gruel. And in the end, they managed to put out some rather lovely plates. Here’s how the night looked, in pictures.

(In case you’ve ever wondered, THAT is what it looks like when you tell a couple fancy young chefs that they’re going to be cooking tonight with chocolate bars and orange soda.)

In the end, the competition was so close, that it came down to the extra points earned by the audience during the trivia contest to decide the winner. But finally, it was Sydney Hanick and Team Will that emerged victorious.

As a prize, we offered her all the leftover Gobstoppers in case she wanted have them for a special at Will.

Unsurprisingly, she declined.

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