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.”