Aaron Brooks Wins Heart of a Chef Culinary Competition

Miami families came out yesterday to enjoy the Heart of a Chef festival and culinary competition at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

The annual event to benefit the Florida Heart Research Institute offered kids' cooking classes, healthy food tastings from local restaurants and sponsors, interactive exhibits, and winetastings.

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- Cochon 555 Aaron Brooks, Pigs Win Big

- 29. Aaron Brooks of Edge Steak & Bar

- 26. Todd Erickson of Haven Gastro-Lounge

The main event of the day was the cooking competition, which pitted two of Miami's best chefs against each other in a culinary duel.

Aaron Brooks, executive chef at Edge Steak & Bar, and Todd Erickson, executive chef at Haven Gastro-Lounge matched wits and skills in a battle for a good cause. Just a week ago, Brooks edged out four other chefs to win Cochon 555. Both chefs are featured in New Times' Tastemakers series, which profiles 30 of the most influential names on Miami's culinary scene.

Each chef was given 30 minutes and a bag of mystery ingredients to cook a healthful and delicious meal. The mystery bag included red bell peppers, mushrooms, green beans, chicken, chickpeas, black beans, potatoes, lemons, onions, apples, grape tomatoes, and shallots. Chefs also had a pantry and fully stocked refrigerator filled with other staples that could be used to complete their dish.

The judges -- Cari Garcia of Fatgirl Hedonist, chef Fernando Desa of Goya Foods, and yours truly, Laine Doss, of Miami New Times -- scored each chef for cleanliness, teamwork, creativity, dish appearance, and taste.

As the timer counts down the minutes, chef Aaron Brooks simmers a hearty stock for his dish.

Chef Todd Erickson works magic with the saute pan.

Brooks' dish featured sliced chicken breast served on a mushroom purée with grape tomatoes, green beans, and apple for brightness.

Erickson's dish of sliced chicken with a tomato and bean salad was a great summer meal, full of color and flavor.

After careful consideration, the judges cast their votes. Aaron Brooks emerged the victor.

Another competition of the day featured Miami-area students in a culinary art competition. Akayla Smith and Carla Mavares from Doral Middle School used nature as inspiration for their edible sculptures.

aBehold the awesome tiki god made of vegetables!

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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