On Thursday, July 31, chef Aaron Brooks (Edge Steak & Bar) will face off against chef Todd Erickson (Huahua's Taqueria and Haven) at New Times' Iron Fork/Miami Spice kickoff, presented by the Miami Downtown Development Authority.
It all goes down at the Hyatt Regency Miami, where the two toques will battle in front of thousands of fans, with three distinguished judges watching every move they make. Timon Balloo (Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill), Jamie DeRosa (Tongue & Cheek), and Adrianne Calvo (Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar) will be the official taste-testers for the event, with chef Allen Susser getting the contestants motivated with his MC stylings.
Unlike Fight Club, Iron Fork has rules, and Aaron "Thunder From Down Under" Brooks and Todd "Top Shelf" Erickson must abide by them:
"Each chef will be supplied with a basket of groceries plus one secret ingredient and challenged to create three unique, mouthwatering dishes, one every 15 minutes. The chef with the two best dishes will be crowned the 2014 Iron Fork Winner."
We caught up with the two chefs, who took time out from their grueling training schedule to share their strategies and thoughts on their opponent.
New Times: What would your dream secret ingredient be, and why?
Aaron Brooks: I'm pretty open to whatever is in the box. I do enjoy a challenge, so I'll go with whatever is planned. I would, however, love to see some cool veggies in there.
Todd Erickson: I am sooooooo not sharing that information!
If you could sneak in and place any secret ingredient in your opponent's basket, what would it be, and why?
Brooks: Vegemite or kangaroo, because it would give me a down-under advantage.
Erickson: From everything that I've had the privilege of trying by chef Aaron Brooks, I'm pretty sure it would take a lot to throw him for a loop. The man has solid skills. If anything, oxtail might be a good one, because it takes so long to cook.
What do you think your opponent's strengths and weaknesses are?
Brooks: Strengths: his dashing good looks and stylish coiffure. Weaknesses: I am not too sure -- maybe that he's just too nice.
Erickson: Aaron is really strong with charcuterie and balancing flavors. I've yet to see his weakness, but as soon as I do, I'll capitalize on it!
How are you preparing for this epic battle?
Brooks: To be honest, I have been trying not to think about it much. It'll only make me nervous! Plus this whole fitness challenge thing Jamie DeRosa got me tied up in has had me plenty busy. Thankfully, though, Todd is part of it too, so he's got his hands full also!
Erickson: Both Aaron and I are kickboxing now. We're going to be lean, mean, cheffing machines by the time we battle.
Do you think cooking before a live audience will help or hinder you? Does this make you nervous or feed your will to win?
Brooks: Love live! The adrenaline rush of cooking in front of a crowd is a great motivation. I'm really looking forward to this!
Erickson: I've done similar events in the past. At first it can be intimidating, but once the battle begins, the focus sets in, and everything but the cooking disappears. Let's hope for that scenario again this time around.
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The competition is just part of the evening. Iron Fork will also feature some of the best restaurants in Miami offering bites. VIP guests will experience the food, fun, and excitement one hour early, at 6 p.m., and will have access to a private bar and lounge that will feature entertainment, cocktails, and an elite selection of Miami's best luxury dining restaurants.
Tickets for this 21-and-over event cost $50 for general admission and $85 for VIP and are available through ticketfly.com.