Chef Michael Schoen Takes Home the Crown from the Culinary Showdown at Sold-Out Flavor Event

On December 10, Cleveland Scene magazine hosted its 10th annual food-filled Flavor event at the Aloft Hotel in the Flats. The sold-out soiree featured 40 different local restaurants, each serving up a wide range of delicious treats. The festivities coincided with the release of Flavor, the food-themed special issue from the scribes at Scene. 

But the highlight of the night, by many accounts, was the “Culinary Showdown,” when three area chefs competed in a time-locked battle to be the best. Competing for bragging rights were Eddie Tancredi of Adega, Brett Sawyer of The Plum, and Michael Schoen of Local Sol. Each had one hour to prepare a cocktail using Woodford Reserve bourbon (and secret ingredient cranberry sauce) and one dish of his choosing.

Judging the competition were Mike Toth (aka Super Pimp), Halle Plagens (owner 3-Sisters Yoga), Chris Dieker (QB for the Gladiators) and Chad Zumock (comedian). Jason Beudert, founder of Restaurant Recruits, served as emcee.

“It was a blast,” notes Schoen. “There were tons of people, everybody did a great job and it was a beautiful event.”

Sawyer whipped up a Land of Milk & Honey, a shaken cocktail with bourbon, cream, orange juice, honey and an egg white. His entrée was flour and brown sugar breaded sweetbreads served with black garlic on nocino risotto.

“We had a fantastic response from the crowd and had a great time participating in every aspect of the event,” Sawyer reports.

Tancredi, who is no stranger to competing (and winning) in events like these, prepared duck Rossini, citrus-marinated duck breast with seared foie gras on top of a rosemary waffle finished with a truffle bourbon cream sauce.

But in the end it was Schoen who won over the judges with his take on a boulevardier cocktail using blood orange followed by his winning dish. That dish consisted of ancho chile and fermented black garlic rubbed wild boar tenderloin served with sassafras-scented sweet potato puree and Luxardo cherry gastrique.

“It was really cool,” says the chef, still high from the win. “I’ve never been in a competition before. We work so hard, you know. To even be asked to do it is a pretty cool honor, but to win – it was huge for me. It’s kind of a validation.”

As for those guys he one-upped, Schoen says, “We all introduced ourselves to each other before the competition. Those guys are cool, man. Really cool guys.”

For his efforts, Schoen walked away with a bottle of Woodford Reserve and a cash prize of $1,000. Not too shabby.

So what’s the chef got planned for all that dough?

“I have a family, and we just moved back from Chicago. As crazy as this industry is, and not being able to spend as much time as you’d like together, we’re going to plan a little trip to Florida in February.”

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About The Author

Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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