At last evening's New Times Iron Fork at the Hyatt Regency Miami, two chefs claimed victory for their respective restaurants after waging most excellent battles, as MC Kitchen's Dena Marino and Mignonette's Lisa Chadwick reigned supreme in the evening's two battles royal.
The first competition of the evening was Shuck It, which pitted five of Miami's finest oyster shuckers against one another in a fast-paced showdown. Though all of the contestants — J&G Grill's Dagan Stocks, Izzy's Fish & Oyster's Andrew Taylor, Lure Fishbar's Khaleel Ali, the Oceanaire Seafood Room's Kareem Anguin, and Mignonette's Lisa Chadwick — looked formidable, only Chadwick was overheard analyzing the oysters and her strategy.
The game plan worked, with Chadwick taking an early lead in the race to see who could open and present a dozen oysters the fastest. In the end, she successfully shucked all the shellfish in a blazing 1 minute 36 seconds for the win
After the shucking competition, it was on to the main event — the Fork Off, in which MC Kitchen's Dena Marino, assisted by sous-chef Victor Toro, and Finka Table & Tap's Eileen Andrade, assisted by sous-chef Lazaro Sifuentes, fought for the coveted Skillet of Excellence. Chef Allen Susser presided over the battle and explained the rules. Of course, judges Danny Serfer (Blue Collar and Mignonette), Adrianne Calvo (Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar), Jamie DeRosa (Tongue & Cheek and Izzy's Fish & Oyster), and Ralph Pagano (Naked Taco and Naked Lunch) were a little busy enjoying treats from Sugar Yummy Mama's Giselle Pinto.
They also prepped for the judging by taking plenty of selfies.
Once the competition began, however, all eyes were on the chefs as they each prepped two dishes for the judges. Marino consulted with Toro on the proper strategy to woo the panel.
Andrade chose the perfect farm-fresh produce for her dish from the well-stocked Iron Fork pantry.
Marino plates her dish, "angry shrimp" cooked in bacon fat (the mystery ingredient courtesy of Miami Smokers), with caviar for a pop.
Chef Adrianne Calvo must have loved it because she exclaimed that she couldn't stop eating it, although she knew plenty more plates would come her way.
Andrade's duck breast was a favorite with judge Ralph Pagano, who said he's a sucker for duck — "and that's good duck!"
After much deliberation by the judges, a winner was finally announced.
Marino was named Iron Fork 2015 champion, taking home the Skillet of Excellence.
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Even with the fiery competition, the chefs hugged it out onstage afterward, knowing they each did an excellent job.