NOTE: Please check below for real-time updates.
OK, so I couldn’t stay wordless all day. There’s a big event afoot. And although I can’t get down there until later today (sick kiddo), I know you’re clamoring for updates.
It’s Diamond Chef. And the heat is on.
Eight local chefs and their sous chefs (assistants) are duking it out today at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, in the lobby bar area. The competition echoes the format of Food Network’s popular show Chopped, requiring the chefs to use items from a mystery basket of ingredients and produce a dish in 40 minutes. Attendance is free, but you’ll have the chance to purchase completed dishes auction-style. The funds will benefit Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School, of which I am a student. Your contributions are greatly appreciated. 😉
The two winning chefs from today’s event will compete on April 8 at the Arkansas Diamond Chef finals event at the Statehouse Convention Center. At this event, chefs will create a three-course meal using a mystery ingredient announced just before the start of competition. Tickets to that event cost $150 per person and can be purchased by calling Jamie Higgins at (501) 812-2271 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s schedule and results:
12:30 p.m. – Heat 1 – Chef Brian Deloney (Maddie’s Place) vs. Chef Jason Godwin (Simply the Best)
Basket ingredients: Flank steak, whole dill pickles, tequila, Asian pear, tomatillos, white cheddar cheese.
Heat 1 Winner: Chef Jason Godwin, Simply the Best
Judges noted the winner’s thinly sliced beef, making the flank steak tender. He created a pico de gallo topping out of the pear, tequila and lime.
1:30 p.m. – Heat 2 – Chef Timothy Morton (1620) vs. Chef Jason Knapp (Pulaski Tech Big Rock Bistro)
Basket ingredients: Veal, star fruit, gorganzola cheese, coffee grounds, Kahlua, tarot (or taro) root.
Heat 2 Winner: Chef Jason Knapp, Pulaski Tech Big Rock Bistro
The competition was close in this round, with Knapp edging out Morton by just two points.
2:30 p.m. – Heat 3 – Chef Diana Bratton (Café 1217 and Taco Mama) vs. Chef Daniel Capello (Chenal Country Club)
Basket ingredients: Cowboy ribeye, mandarin orange, mandarin kumquat, red wine, chayote squash, cornflakes.
Heat 3 Winner: Chef Daniel Capello, Chenal Country Club
Cowboy steak with cornflake crust, puree of yukon gold potatoes with onion/mandarin orange marmalade, beef roulade with spinach, chayote, tomato and mushrooms.
3:30 p.m. – Heat 4 – Chef Joseph McCullough (Best Impressions) vs. Chef Donnie Ferneau (Ferneau)
Basket ingredients: Brussels sprouts, vodka, yellow mustard, flat iron steak, mangosteen, feta cheese.
Heat 4 Winner: Chef Donnie Ferneau of Ferneau.
Ferneau’s dish was a flat iron steak marinated in mustard and garlic; brussels sprouts, mangosteen and feta cheese ravioli with a wild mushroom veal cream; fried onions and a green onion pesto. Technical judge Andre Poirot, Executive Chef at the Peabody Hotel, said the two dishes were equally delicious, and Ferneau won on creativity with the given ingredients.
5 p.m. – Winner of Heat 1 vs. Winner of Heat 2
Chef Jason Knapp of Pulaski Technical College Big Rock Bistro vs. Chef Jason Godwin of Simply the Best
Basket ingredients: Denver cut beef, kohlrabi, rum, saltine crackers, gorgonzola cheese, gooseberries.
Quarterfinal 1 Winner: Chef Jason Knapp of Pulaski Technical College Big Rock Bistro.
The winning dish (which I got to taste, and was fabulous) included thinly sliced Denver cut beef, mashed potatoes with kohlrabi, a cracker-coated crust with camembert cheese, and a pan sauce with dark rum, butter, cream and gooseberries.
6 p.m. – Winner of Heat 3 vs. Winner of Heat 4
Chef Daniel Capello of Chenal Country Club vs. Chef Donnie Ferneau of Ferneau
Quarterfinal 2 Winner: Chef Daniel Capello of Chenal Country Club.
With a perfect score, Chef Capello ousts 2008 Diamond Chef Donnie Ferneau. His dish featured a mushroom and cottage cheese stuffed sirloin, crisp vegetables with fiddlehead ferns, blue cheese gnocchi, smoked sirloin with balsamic onions. The beef was served in a glass cloche filled with smoke.
I’ll update as frequently as possible today with winners and photos. You should also check out the photos and commentary at the Arkansas Times’ Eat Arkansas blog.