That’s right folks. It’s time again for your favorite culinary battle competition, Ultimate Chef Bergen County, sponsored by Chef Central in Paramus, New Jersey. For the opening round, Chef John Marsh of Green Door Cafe in Tenafly went up against Chef Jesse Jones of Heart and Soul Catering.
The ensuing battle was a clash of titans, a 40 year veteran of the New York restaurant scene with a classic cooking style versus a Southern style, North Carolina down-home cook. As with with many of these TV-style competitions, the focus was on a “Secret Ingredient”. For the opening round this year, it was Cranberries.
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The Secret Ingredient: Cranberries.
Chef John Marsh, of Green Door Cafe in Tenafly.
Chef Jesse Jones of Heart and Soul Catering.
John works on his salad dressing.
Fresh Cranberries in the pot.
D’Artagnan Duck Breasts.
Aromatic vegetables cooking up at Chef Jesse’s station.
Chef John’s right-hand man and Sous, Chef Rob Urban.
Rob and John talking strategy.
Spices, Oils and condiments from Chef Jesse’s station.
Duck legs cooking at Chef Jesse’s station.
Chef John working on some Jicama for his appetizer course.
Time for some mandoline action.
Slicing bread for garlic toast points.
Brushing olive oil and garlic mixture on the garlic toast.
Culinary School students at the ready.
Chef’s Jesse’s pressure cooker letting off some steam. Hey, someone better turn that down…
Spoon Bread batter from Chef Jesse’s station.
Roasted Garlic Cloves from Green Door’s station.
Green Door’s condiment and oils area.
Green Door’s duck breasts being seared.
Getting the Salad Dressing ready.
Chef Rob with toasted spiced pecans.
John in a state of heavy concentration.
Duck Breasts looking good.
Chef Rob takes a peek.
Chef John de-veins D’artagnan Hudson Valley Foie Gras lobes.
Duck Breasts just about ready.
Finished seared duck breasts.
Slicing up the foie at the Green Door station.
Calve’s Liver at the Green Door station.
Duck drumettes at Chef Jesse’s station.
Seasoned Center Cut Pork Chops at Chef Jesse’s station.
Green Door plates its appetizer.
At the one hour mark on the dot, Green Door’s appetizer is the first out of the gate — seared Duck Breast with a Jicama Slaw and Cranberry gastrique.
But wait… a few minutes later, Chef Jesse lands with his own Foie Gras starter, with a cranberry salad with duck meat.
Diver Scallops searing at Chef Jesse’s station.
Chef Jesse making sure his scallops are searin’ good.
Lookin’ good to me.
Green Door Cafe lands its second course, a spiced/candied pecan salad with baby mustard greens, craisins, goat cheese and garlic toast points.
Chef Jesse plates his second course.
Chef Jesse’s second course, a pan seared diver scallop over a cornmeal spoon bread with oysters and cranberries and a sweet corn sauce.
The judges eat the second course. From left to right, CMC Tom Griffiths from the Culinary Institute of America, Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherril of 201 Magazine, and restaurant writer Rosie Saferstein of New Jersey Monthly.
Chef Jesse tosses up his finely diced sweet potatoes for his main course.
A sweet potato-apple-cranberry mixture for Jesse’s main course.
Calf Liver (foreground) and Risotto (Background) at Green Door’s station.
Chef Jesse plates his main course.
Chef Jesse’s main course, the spiced center-cut Pork Chop with greens, cranberry reduction, and sweet potato/cranberry/apple saute.
Green Door lands its main dish, a full frontal assault of Calf Liver topped with D’Artagnan Hudson Valley Foie Gras, with cranberry reduction, cranberry risotto and kale saute.
Chef Jesse lands his dessert, a Cranberry Crumble with Creme Anglaise and White Chocolate.
Green Door hits back with a Dark Chocolate Cranberry molten lava cake, with German-style heavy whipped cream (Schlag).
A dessert panorama.
Green Door co-owner Leon Bell explains the organic and all-natural mission and goals of Green Door Cafe.
After several minutes of deliberation the judges came back from their sequestering. It was apparently a close race, but only one chef’s cuisine could reign supreme. The winner?
a triumphant Chef Jesse Jones, whose elevated down-home Carolina cooking won the judges’ hearts that day.
Next week, Chef Adam Weiss of Esty Street in Park Ridge will battle Chef Ike Koutrakous of Cooking Your Kitchen in first of two elimination rounds. The winner will then battle Chef Jesse on January 30th who will then face last year’s champion, Christine Nunn of Picnic Caterers in Emerson on February 27th.