New Times' Iron Fork, the official Miami Spice kickoff event presented by the Miami Downtown Development Authority, has announced the two chefs brave enough to duke it out onstage in a battle of wits, skill, and culinary prowess. And this time, women are running the show.
Which two powerhouses have agreed to take on the challenge for the prized Iron Fork?
On Thursday, July 30, at the Hyatt Regency Miami/James L. Knight Center, Eileen Andrade of Finka Table & Tap will face MC Kitchen's Dena Marino in a "Fork Off." Last year, Haven's Todd Erickson met Edge Steak & Bar's Aaron Brooks on the stage, with chef Erickson emerging victorious.
Andrade opened Finka Table & Tap with her brother Jonathan in July 2014 to much acclaim. Every evening, the restaurant is packed with patrons clamoring for a taste of the siblings' blend of Latin and Asian flavors. Eileen Andrade is thrilled to have been chosen for the battle. "I am excited that we've got women involved in the competition," she says. "I've been coming to this event for a few years, and I think this year will definitely be one for the books. Dena and I have worked together on several occasions, so this will be fun to go head-to-head — or fork-to-fork, if you will. Our cooking styles and restaurants are very different, so I am excited to see what each of us will bring to the table. At the end of the day, whatever happens, I am honored to be put up against such a respected chef."
Marino opened MC Kitchen in November 2012 after making a name for herself at Ajax Tavern, a Michael Chiarello-owned eatery in Aspen. The chef combines rustic Italian dishes with a modern flair in her Design District restaurant. It has become a favorite haunt for power brokers and Miami Heat players. Now Marino is ready to do battle. "I'm a very competitive person, just like all chefs, so of course I want to win! I'm pretty good at battling, since I battled Morimoto on Iron Chef America a few years ago. I'm excited that the theme is farm-to-table, being that my cooking is that with an Italian flair."
Speaking of this year's farm-to-table theme, battle MC and referee Allen Susser says, “We’re finally catching up down here, with farmers’ markets popping up all over the city. Both professional chefs and at-home cooks have access to some of the best seafood in the world. It’s about time we focused on all the good ingredients we have to choose from down here."
Each chef will be provided with a plethora of fresh, local produce, proteins, and sustainable seafood. To keep them on their toes, they will also be given a mystery ingredient moments before the cooking begins. Each chef must use that mystery ingredient in a killer dish that will impress a panel of judges. The victor will be presented with the now-famous Skillet of Excellence, which can be displayed at the winner's restaurant or used to make a damn fine omelet.
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But Iron Fork is more than the chefs' battle. It's also a chance to enjoy food from the best restaurants in town, including dozens of Miami Spice participants, such as Cibo Wine Bar, J&G Grill, and Tantalize Miami.
Early-bird discounted tickets are available through June 14 and cost $40 for general admission. June 15 through June 30, advance-purchase general-admission tickets cost $45. The price climbs to $50 July 1 through July 29 and increases to $65 at the door (while supplies last). GA tickets allow entry to Iron Fork from 7 to 10 p.m. and include unlimited samplings of food from dozens of Miami's finest establishments.
VIPs get into Iron Fork at 6 p.m. for an extra hour of fun and have access to the exclusive VIP lounge. Early-bird VIP tickets cost $70 now through June 14; advance-purchase VIP tickets are $75 June 15 through June 30; regular-priced VIP tickets are $85 July 1 through July 29; and VIP tickets at the door cost $100 (while supplies last). To purchase them, visit newtimesironfork.com.