The championship battle of kitchen wills finally culminated last night at Whole Foods in Coral Gables, where chef Timon Balloo of Sugarcane faced chef Michael Jacobs, who caters to the cravings of our Miami Heat players. Both had previously won their chance to compete in the finals by beating Daniel Ganem of Kane Steakhouse and Samuel Gorenstein of BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel.
The rules remained the same: $20, 20 minutes to shop, and 20 minutes to whip up something spectacular under difficult circumstances. And once again, both chefs astounded the judges (disclaimer: me included) with what can be achieved with such a short period of prep and burner time.
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Chef Jacobs delivered a perfectly plump citrus-dusted scallop with spinach and sweet pea purée, braised fennel, oyster mushrooms, and grilled citrus. Chef Balloo originally planned on going with tuna but changed his mind at the fish counter. His five-spice-crusted corvina was served with summer heirloom tomato and edamame relish on top of a creamy potato and fennel purée. The dishes had similar ingredients but incredibly different flavor profiles -- both were delicious. In fact, this match was extremely close; only two points separated the winner from the loser.
In the end, there can be only one chef standing, and Balloo's corvina was chosen as the competition's winning dish. No gloating in sight, he was just happy to be invited to the game. "It was awesome -- such a great group of extremely talented chefs who participated, great fun to cook against them. It's a small circle, we all eat at each other's restaurants, we love each other's food... so I am extremely honored and humbled."
Check out the Whole Foods website for recipes from the trenches.