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 second round, Chef Adam Weiss of Esty Street in Park Ridge went up against Chef Ike Koutrakous of Cooking in Your Kitchen.
This fight was a doozy, resulting in the closest competition that Chef Central had ever had to judge. Let’s get to it!
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The secret ingredient was Pignoli, or pine nuts. Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees. In Italy, where it it most commonly used, the seeds come from Stone Pine trees. In Asian cuisine, such as in Korean and Chinese food, the Korean Pine and the Chinese White Pine is used, among various others in the region.
Chef Ike Koutrakous, of “Cooking in Your Kitchen”.
Chef Adam Weiss of Esty Street Restaurant.
Wine and stock reduction in the foreground cooking on Chef Koutrakous’s station, with lamb tenderloins searing in the background.
Lamb tenderloins resting.
Pears sauteeing at Chef Koutrakous’s station.
Esty Street’s sous chef pulses up some Pignoli in the Vita-Mix.
Monkfish cooking up at Esty Street’s station.
Mise en Place for Esty Street’s main course sauce.
These look like slices of cheesecake, but they are actually large pieces of Brie that have been breaded and coated with a pignoli crust.
Esty Street pulsing up basil for their main course sauce.
Chef Koutrakous works his mandoline for an Artichoke salad.
Esty Street’s brie slices exit the deep fryer.
Gnocchi for Esty Street’s pasta course.
Chef Weiss tastes his first course sauce.
Esty Street’s first course, deep fried Brie Cheese coated with Pignoli Crust
Chef Koutrakous’ first course, a Salsify and Pignoli Nut Soup.
Chef Weiss works his Gnocchi.
Koutrakous butter-bastes his diver scallops.
Esty Street’s Gnocchi.
Koutrakous’ mise-en-place for his second course, Diver Scallops with Artichoke Salad.
Koutrakous plates his second course.
Koutrkous’s second course, seared diver scallop with artichoke/feta cheese salad with pignoli sauce.
Esty Street’s second course, Gnocchi with wild mushrooms, pignoli nuts and parmigiano-reggiano cheese.
Bacon at Koutrakous’s station.
Koutrakous incorporates the bacon into his farro side dish for his main course.
Koutrakous plates his main course.
Seared Lamb Ternderloin over a Farro/Pignoli mixture with a wine reduction and caper berries.
Koutrakous’s main course closeup.
Esty Street’s main course, a monkfish over Saffron Israeli Couscous with a pignoli gremolata sauce.
The judges eat the main course. From left to right, CMC Tom Griffiths from the Culinary Institute of America, Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherril of 201 Magazine, and Culinary Education director for Northern Valley Regional High School in Demerest, Alexis Goebel.
Esty Street works on its dessert plating.
Koutrakous works on his dessert.
Koutrakous’ dessert, a pignoli cake with sauteed pears and a pignoli creme anglaise.
Esty Street’s dessert, a Lemon Custard with a traditional Italian Pignoli Cookie.
Who’s cuisine reigned supreme? It was a near tie between Esty’s Adam Weiss and Koutrakous, with a difference of 12 points on a 1400 point scale with Chef Ike Koutrakous edging out for the win. However, because this was such a close competition, Adam Weiss is being invited back for another round, facing Chef Jesse Jones for yet another elimination, with the winner of that round competing against Chef Ike, for the chance to go onto the final round to face Chef Christine Nunn, last year’s champion.
I’ve had a few days to think about this result. Frankly, I don’t agree with it. The chefs provide all their own ingredients. They spend their money and time preparing and practicing for this event. Another round adds additional expenses for Chef Jesse, who now has to compete yet again for the chance to cook in the semi-finals. Let’s say Chef Adam wins this round, if he is successful in his rematch with Chef Ike, won’t they really be tied 1-1? I appreciate Chef Adam’s talent, but isn’t this a bit like the Jets getting a do-over?
Well, that’s my two cents. I’ll be there to cover it, I love to bring everyone who can’t attend in person a visual taste of Bergen County’s finest chefs. I just wish it weren’t with a bitter aftertaste.