Sep 5, 2014

The Good Ones Boston: Eat.Play.Love Top Chef Battle Series Finale!

I attended yet another fabulous culinary event hosted by Carolyn Kim and Jennifer Brooke Co-Founders of The Good Ones, Boston!  This was the grand finale in a series of four different chef battles featuring Boston's best culinary talent.  The event took place on Sunday August 24th at Michael Schlow's Tico restaurant in Back Bay. The event was themed as a modern take on Machiavelli and raised awareness for Cape Ann Fresh Catch, to encourage and promote our local sustainable seafood market in order to benefit the economy, environment, and overall health of our community. The Red/Purple/Yellow color theme brought out costume creativity among the guests who were dressed to impress. 

The jovial guests were greeted by the gorgeous models below, Drea Elizabeth and Miss Bulgarka in the USA, Elena Kollarova both wearing dresses designed by Carlos Villami of Zero Waste Fashion. The festive floral head pieces were created by Jimmy Guzman of JNG Design plus the hair and make-up by Kashmir of Viselli Santoro Salon was impeccable.  

Tico restaurant did a wonderful job of hosting the brunch crowd prior to the start of the battle.  They passed around everything from pork belly corn dogs to mushroom quesadillas, as well as the savory lamb sandwich. The vibe for this well organized event was smooth as the throwback hip hop tunes by Team Sayles played in the backdrop and the sun shined bright on this perfect August day.  Guests sipped on craft cocktails by resident bar tender Greg Neises, brand ambassador for Cazadores and Corzo Tequila, and the diligent restaurant staff graciously passed drinks around.  


 No event would be complete without some entertainment, and since the hip hop music took control of the dance floor, these uber talented hip hop hula dancers found themselves shaking things up with their rhythmic dance moves. They danced, they spun, and twirled those hula hoops all around inspiring many of the guests to play along as well.
 Meanwhile back in the kitchen the  two talented chefs work meticulously to prepare three courses a piece for the anxious guests.  The reigning champ, Chef Brendan Burke, known as the "Silent Chef", is a California native.  He made his way over to the east coast about 3 years ago with his first position as an Executive Chef at Gem's Restaurant and Lounge.  Soon after, Chef Brendan worked his way into the local culinary rankings and is currently the Sous Chef at one of the newest hot spots in town, Bastille Kitchen.

 The challenger pictured below is Resident Sous Chef Ben Harwood of Tico restaurant.  Also hailing from the West Coast, Chef Ben started his career at Farmshop in Santa Monica, CA.  It is there where his love of the farm to table concept grew.  Having access to an ample amount of local sustainable produce, Ben tapped into his creative culinary side and carved his own niche cuisine.

 Now onto the battle!  Whole Foods sponsored the food supplies for the event, and in addition to that, both chefs had a budget of $150 to feed around 100 guests quality cuisine with their signature trademark.  The chefs were also asked to incorporate the Machiavelli theme into their dishes whether it be the Italian Renaissance stylings of the original or the modern day interpretation through the music of the late Tupac Shakur, also known as "Makaveli"......

The first course (pictured below) by the competing chefs was superb!  Artisan Italian cheese was the common ingredient for this round, supplied by one of the event sponsors, The Mozzarella House.

On the left is Chef Brendan Burke's creation, a crostini topped with delectably creamy Stracciatella, a confit of cherry tomatoes, shaved asparagus, pesto hollandaise, all topped with black salt. A relatively simple dish, but it all comes down to the execution of each ingredient which makes the difference.

On the right is Chef Ben Harwood's seasonal fig and burrata salad served with a hazelnut pesto, crispy pancetta and arugala. Chock full of flavor and textural components, this was a party on a plate! Staying true to his style Chef Ben was able to highlight the beauty of the mission fig, an abundant summer fruit, who's season is slowly coming to an end.
 (The chefs worked non stop through out the afternoon as the guests gobbled up course after course of the tasty goodness pouring out of the Tico kitchen.)
 Course number two followed soon after, Pictured on the left is Chef Brendan's Blini topped with a summery seafood sausage consisting of lobster and other fruits of the ocean served with an apricot gastrique, chive sabayon, and balsamic "caviar".  This dish really demonstrated the skill of this talented chef, who delivered the technically better dish.

However, Chef Ben's second course, a duck heart arancini served with mushrooms and pickled cherries was a robust and hearty medley of flavors.  This dish incorporated seasonal fruit and paired it with other powerful ingredients, the combination really stood out to me. An original spin on an Italian classic, which really tapped into the whole Machiavelli theme in more ways than one......
  (Chef Ben feeling at ease in his kitchen as his team helps him plate up the next course.......)

The third and final round delivered by the chefs was the deciding factor.  Up until this point, both Chef Burke and Harwood have been consistent in quality and execution of each dish.

Chef Harwood served up a flavorful dish consisting of yet more seasonal produce like the braised chard and pork belly hash along with a poached egg topped with pork belly shavings. The runny yolk smothered all the deliciousness on the plate and proved to be a memorable combination of flavors, but could it match up the the reigning champ's dish.....

Chef Burke decided to go with a dessert for his final course, a chocolate and mascarpone tortellini with espresso whipped cream.  Clean, quaint, and perfect! This was the best way to wrap up the event, and clever on the part of the chef to deliver a dessert against his competitors heavier final course.    
 
 (Chef Brendan calling the shots as he plates up his final dish......)
Another fabulous component to the event were the signature cocktails sponsored by St.Elder, a "remarkably versatile" elderflower liqueur used to add floral sweet notes to festive drinks.  Modeled here by the lovely model Drea Elizabeth in another bespoke dress designed by the talented Carlos Villami of Zero Waste Fashion.

The final touch that puts The Good Ones event a step above the rest is their attention to detail.  They think of everything from arts to entertainment and sometimes both wrapped into one.  The fantastic caricature board below was created by the uber talented Mark Penta. He can quickly capture the very essence of someone's personality and create a unique cartoon version of them.  Needless to say this was a very popular station for the afternoon, I was fortunate enough to make the cut this time around, can you spot me in the mix?
Overall there were no complaints as the event wrapped up towards the late afternoon.  The music was playing, people were eating, drinking, dancing, and enjoying every aspect of this well organized affair.  Alas, the battle was complete, and there had to be one winner.  Hats off to both chefs who went head to head through the entire competition, but it was Chef Brendan's dessert, that put him a nose ahead of Chef Ben Harwood.

A hearty congratulations to the Chef Brendan Burke of Bastille Kitchen for  a job well done, and to Chef Ben Harwood of Tico restaurant for being such a strong competitor.  Looking forward to more culinary events and battles throughout the year as the busy season begins here in Boston.


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