The Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament, a summer long single-elimination culinary competition, featuring 16 local restaurants and chef teams has begun. The tournament, which began in 2010, has moved back to Baltimore City this year, and found a new home at Mari Luna Bistro (1225 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201) right in the heart of the cultural district. I am also excited to be back on the judging panel again this year after I took a “maternity” leave from judging.
This year’s tournament looks to be the best year yet, and has some exciting new features to offer guests, all included with their admission:
- Each week of the tournament will feature a geographic region. Chef teams will be required to keep that theme as they create and prepare an appetizer, entrée and dessert using featured products from tournament sponsors.
- Happy Hour will include wine and spirit tasting each evening, with different vintners and distributors hosting and bringing some interesting and different things to try each week, like a Tequila tasting and a Punch Bowl tasting, as well as traditional wine tasting.
- Happy Hour will also include hors d’ouerves prepared by Mari Luna Bistro using featured products from some of the tournament’s top sponsors.
- A dessert bar and coffee will be provided at the end of each evening throughout the competition.
My first judging night was on Monday, June 24, 2013 with Andrew Kopp from Waterfront Kitchen versus Jirat Suphrom In from My Thai.
Chef Andrew has worked at the Waterfront Kitchen since January of 2012, where he is the Chef de Cuisine and an apprentice to Chef Jerry Pellegrino. Chef Andrew has worked at Sotta Sopra and Ixia where he was the Garde Manager Chef, and Berthas in Fells Point and Alonso/Loco Hombre where he was the sous chef. Waterfront Kitchen is a seed-to-plate restaurant that sources ingredients as locally and seasonally as possible.
Chef Jirat grew up in Thailand and came to the U.S.A. in 2008. Chef Jirat studied the art of Thai cooking with his mother beginning in 2008, and continues that tradition now. He has worked in American Restaurant under the tutelage of Mark Morgan part owner/chef of the Two Rivers chain. . My Thai prepares authentic Thai cuisine from Thailand. Their specialty is Thai Street food / grill bar.
Thist was battle Spain featuring the following products:
- Whole Chicken from Koch Foods
- Piquillo peppers from Roland Foods
- Manchego and Valdeon Carbrales from Atalanta
- Marcona almonds, La bomba rice and fluer du sel from Catalonia Spain, Paprika smoked La Vera from Western Spain, Extra virgin olive oil Marques De Grinon from Toledo Spain and Boquerones from the Cantabrian Sea from DeMedici
- Merguez lamb sausage from Logan Sausage
The night’s Happy Hour featured a Italian Wine Tasting Hosted by Rachel Kirk of Southern Wine & Spirits, featuring Voga Sparkling Pinot Grigio from Friuli, Argiolas Vermentino from Sardinia, Marchesi di Barolo Barbera Ravera from Piedmont, Zenato Ripassa Valpilocella from Veneto, Piccini Sasso al Poggio (super Tuscan) from Tuscany, and If You See Kay Red Blend from Lazio.
Andrew Kopp (Black Team) prepared the following dishes for battle Spain:
- Appetizer: Pollo ajillo served with Cabrales blue cheese – the homemade blue cheese dressing was amazing and full of robust flavor, the wings themselves were cooked perfectly but could have used a bit more heat to them
- Entrée: Traditional Spanish gazpacho, stuffed radicchio with roasted vegetables, and arroz con pollo – the stuffed radicchio was full of fresh flavors and was a nice spin on a lettuce wrap, the gazapacho was refreshing and the topping of cheese added a nice twist to it, the chicken was slightly underdone but the rice was full of flavor and cooked perfectly.
- Dessert: traditional French crepe with berry compote topped with marcona almonds. The favors were there but would have loved more saltiness from the almonds.
Chef Jirat (Red Team) prepared the following dishes for battle Spain:
- Appetizer: Spanish omelet with Thai red curry sauce manchego cheese foam and cilantro. The omelet was nicely cooked and had a nice kick to it with the sauce.
- Entrée: Thai basil fried rice and topped with airline chicken wrapped with scallion and served with spice sauce and sweet red wine reduction and fried onion. The chicken was moist and nicely cooked, however, I would have liked more flavors the spices.
- Dessert: Cabrales crème brule topped with caramel sugar and crushed candied ginger marcona almonds. This dish showed potential but overall was lacking in consistency and flavor.
The score was close and both teams offered some of their best, but congratulations goes to Chef Jirat of My Thai! Chef Jirat moves on and will be competing on Monday, August 5, 2013 against Melissa Fordham with battle Belgium.
Tickets for this live, interactive, local event are on sale now at www.masondixonmasterchef.com and are just $25 for General Admission, $45 for Judge Experience (where guests get to taste the entrees and vote on the winner) with 10% of the net proceeds going directly to Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.