It’s time again for another episode of Ultimate Chef Bergen County!
After defeating Chef Carmine Spinazzola from South City Grill in the Lemongrass Battle, Chef Christine Nunn of Picnic Caterers returned again to the Chef Central demo kitchen to compete in the Ultimate Chef Bergen County finals.
Her opponent was Chef Joe Macri from Hennessy Tavern in Northvale, formerly of Candela Restaurant in New York City, which closed in July of 2007. Macri is now making updated tavern-style food, so he was a perfect opponent for Christine, who specializes in classic French cuisine.
To match these two together, the judges picked an ingredient that couldn’t have been more well-suited for either chef — ROQUEFORT CHEESE!
Roquefort is a blue/green veined and very strong stinky cheese from the Aveyron region of Southern France made from sheep’s milk. Like Stilton and Gorgonzola, it is one of the most well-known and popular types of Blue Cheeses.
Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more!
Chef Joe Macri ponders for a short time before the clocks start ticking.
Chef Michelle West and Chef Christine Nunn size up the competition. “Yeah, we can take this guy.”
Chef Central’s Executive Chef Jim Edwards introduces the opponents and the key ingredient.
Judges Bill Pitcher of the Bergen Record and Susan Leigh Sherril of 201 Magazine. Chef Richard Kimble from Waldorf Astoria/Sodexo also returned to judge.
28-day dry aged Prime Porterhouse Steak, from Picnic’s station.
Chef Christine gets to work.
Macri starts putting on the elbow grease.
Edwards interviews Macri about his restaurant.
Chef Michelle fills up baked fingerling potato skins with a mashed potato/roquefort filling.
Christine puts her game face on.
Michelle massages burger meat. BURGERS! With blue cheese!
The competitors are civil but you can feel tension in the air. Someone is going down today!
Christine working on a sauce.
Macri ready to pull his pasta out of the pot.
The judges look on, patiently awaiting their first course.
Macri sautees some apples.
One of Chef Central’s demo chefs help out. These events wouldn’t be possible without these chefs who put in their time and effort to make the headliners look good.
Christine gets nutty.
Macri unloads an Apple/Berry filling into ramekins for his dessert course.
Michelle and Christine taste their sauce.
Macri’s ramekins, awaiting topping.
Michelle checks the mini-burgers for doneness.
Macri pulls his lamb stock out of the pressure cooker.
Macri puts braised lamb shank meat into the food processor. What is he making… meatballs?
Why yes, it could be meatballs!
Michelle seasons the Porterhouse.
Christine uses her deft CIA skills to condimentize the burgers. Yep, that’s Heinz Ketchup there!
Macri’s first course lands — Beet and Chardonnay Poached Pear with Roquefort Truffle Honey Fondue.
Christine’s first course — a tasting of Jacketed Fingerling Potato Skin, Mini Burger, Goffle Farm Chicken Wing with Roquefort Dressing.
Another view of Christine’s dish.
Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, from Macri’s station.
Hmm… who wins the first course?
Macri checks his Braised Lamb meatballs.
Macri’s second course — Braised Lamb Shank meatballs with Roquefort Cheese over Orzo with Lamb Jus topped with gremolata. I actually got to try this dish from the samples that were sent out to the audience, it was excellent, and it turned out to be the judge’s favorite of the day. This is a creative rendition and adaptation of Keftedes, a popular greek Taverna dish. Macri’s wife is Greek, so I think this was a shout out to her for supporting him from the sidelines. I was a little worried at this point that maybe Christine didn’t have this one in the bag.
Butter Lettuce Salad with Bacon and Roquefort Cheese, Figs, Pears, Quince Crostini, Christine’s second course. Not as creative as Macri’s second but the judges appreciated the showcasing of the ingredient and nice execution. Christine used a different and more crumbly variety of Roquefort for this plating.
What’s this? more BURGERS from Macri’s station? BURGER THROWDOWN!
Caramelized onions from Macri’s station.
Macri puts big mounds of Bleu Cheese on his burgers. I like loads of the stuff, but this is risky. As it turned out, I think he actually used Gorgonzola, not Roquefort. I got to try these from the audience samples, as did Rachel. Rachel thought the cheese was overpowering, but I liked them a lot. It just goes to show how an ingredient will play differently with different people.
Christine’s third course lands — Porter House Steak with Roquefort Dijon Hollandaise, Macaroni and Roquefort Cheese, Spinach and Button Mushrooms.
Macri’s third course lands, Burger with Caramelized Onions, Roquefort Cheese and Fresh Baked Burger Bun, Marinated Short Ribs with Roquefort Sauce over Pears and Bacon Brussel Sprouts.
Another view of Macri’s third.
A close-up of Macri’s mini-burgers.
Christine’s dessert course — a Apple/Pear Crumb with a Pedro Ximenez sherry reduction (a 1971) topped with Roquefort Ice Cream and Candied Bacon.
Macri’s Apple/Berry crumble with Roquefort and Vanilla Bean ice cream. Rachel got to try this one and really liked it.
Presentation Dish Lineup near the judging station.
Macri talks about his restaurant after finishing up.
And who’s cusine reigned supreme?
It was Christine Nunn, of Picnic Caterers, who’s flawless technique and creative dishes won over the judges. But Macri put in a very good and solid showing, and I’m looking forward to trying his dishes at his restaurant soon. Put the meatballs on the menu!
As for Chef Christine — ON TO THE ULTIMATE ROUND ON FEBRUARY 28!
And Pitcher, go earn your lunch and wash the dishes!