Fill The Grill Competition: Balloo Wins First Round (Photos)

Last night two chefs faced off in the first installment of a cooking competition sponsored by Whole Foods in Coral Gables. Chef Timon Balloo of popular Midtown spot, Sugarcane, went up against Chef Daniel Ganem of the recently opened Kane Steakhouse. They had twenty dollars and twenty minutes to shop, then were given twenty minutes to cook and compose their plates. Despite grill issues (at one point, it mysteriously ceased to work), both chefs demonstrated the difference between us and them - presenting beautifully constructed, multi-component dishes that demonstrated exactly what a professional can achieve when the clock is ticking.

Balloo took valuable time out of his busy prep work to rush the judges a glass of wine, twice, but we promise that didn't sway the vote (disclaimer: this writer was one of them). The panel also included Miami.com's Fred Gonzalez, and Devonie Nicholas from the Food Network South Beach Food and Wine Festival. Decisions, decisions...this was a very close match. Balloo produced a zatar crusted swordfish with a summer corn "tabbouleh" and garbanzo bean puree; while Ganem demonstrated his flair for red meat with a chili-pepper and dijon marinated flat iron steak, charred corn and a red pepper - tomato coulis. Both went beyond delicious. In the end, there can only be one winner, and Balloo won by a slight margin. He says that "it was great that we both pulled it off, we are both winners." Ganem gave a nod to the conqueror, "it was a lot of fun, Timon did a great job, and I can't wait to try his food at Sugarcane." We just love it when everyone gets along on the playground.

In the next round, look for the Beard-nominated Chef Sam Gorenstein of

BLT Steak to compete against the Miami Heat's own, Chef Michael Jacobs.

The winner of that bout will then attempt to vanquish Chef Balloo on August 17 in the finals. Whole

Foods will be publishing Balloo's winning recipe tomorrow, check back

for the link.

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