Iron Fork 2014: Aaron Brooks vs. Todd Erickson

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The New Times Iron Fork/Miami Spice kickoff, presented by the Miami Downtown Development Authority, has just announced the two Miami chefs brave enough to face each other in a battle of skill, fire, and sharp objects.

So which two chefs have accepted this year's epic challenge in which only won can emerge victorious and take home the prized skillet of excellence?

Aaron Brooks, executive chef of Edge Steak and Bar will face Todd Erickson, chef/partner at Haven and Huahua's Taqueria in this year's battle for culinary supremacy. Last year, Eating House's Giorgio Rapicavoli met Tongue & Cheek's Jamie DeRosa in the battlefield, with Rapicavoli emerging victorious.

Brooks and Erickson have met in the culinary arena before, at the Heart of a Chef event for the Florida Heart Research Institute at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, with the chef from Down Under winning.

See also: Aaron Brooks Wins Heart of a Chef Culinary Competition

This time, they'll face-off at Iron Fork on Thursday, July 31, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Miami where they'll have to impress judges Timon Balloo (Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill and Bocce Bar), Jamie DeRosa (Tongue & Cheek), and Adrianne Calvo (Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar). Each chef is uniquely qualified to judge the event, having been past Iron Fork "warriors." Chef Allen Susser will act as emcee and, if the battle gets heated, referee.

We asked Aaron "Thunder from Down Under" Brooks and Todd "Top Shelf" Erickson about their training techniques and what tricks they've got up their sleeves. Here's what they had to say.

New Times: Who do you think is going to win Iron Fork?

Aaron Brooks: Me. I beat Todd once at the Heart of a Chef cook off, it's a given I'll pull it off again! But seriously, I recently had the pleasure of eating Todd's food at Haven and at various events round the city, this guy is seriously talented. It won't be an easy win but I'm sure I got this one in the bag. You can put money on it.

Todd Erickson: Me. Because I have the home hemisphere advantage.

How are you training? Are you from the "fly by the seat of my pants" school or "I'll study every possibly recipe just in case I'm hit with canned squid as a mystery ingredient?" Why?

Aaron Brooks: To be honest I'm a fly by the seat of my pants kind of guy. I like to see what's in front of me and just go for it. I am sure there are going to be some wild ingredients in the baskets which is going to make it even more challenging and a ton of fun.

Todd Erickson: I'm more of a go with the flow kind of competitor. No need to stress about the unknown.

What do you hope the mystery ingredient will NOT be? And why?

Aaron Brooks: I'm pretty good with most ingredients. You put some tripe in there and you'll really challenge me...and no tortillas; I think Todd can put anything in a tortilla and make it a winning combo.

Todd Erickson: Kangaroo or Vegemite. Why give Mr. Brooks a downunda advantage?

What's your strategy for winning?

Aaron Brooks: I'm just telling myself to cook and get it done. It's going to be all about flavor. I'll just let the food speak for itself.

Todd Erickson: Be creative, cook solid, have fun.

Any dirty little tricks up your chef's coat sleeves?

Aaron Brooks: If I get a feeling that I'm going to fail, I'll just unplug his equipment and hide his knives.

Todd Erickson: I am working on a few different scenarios. My vision will become more clear as we get closer to "go" time.

You will also have a table full of ingredients. What are the three key dish components that you're heading for first and why?

Aaron Brooks: Geez, that's a tough one. I'm really going to have to see what's on the table to make that call. The mystery ingredient will determine that for me. I tell you I will grab olive oil, salt, and some fresh herbs straight up. I can't live with out those ingredients. I'll be keen to see what sort of spices might be laid out too.

Todd Erickson: It all depends on the mystery ingredient!

Fill in the blanks: Chef Aaron Brooks is going to be so easy to mutilate because:

Todd Erickson: I doubt there will be shrimps or barbies involved and wallaby is out of season.

Fill in the blanks Chef Todd Erickson is in for a world of hurt when I:

Aaron Brooks: Bring my culinary storm and thunder from Down Under! Bring your big-boy britches, mate, BECAUSE IT'S ON!

Of course, the competition is just part of the evening. Iron Fork will also feature some of the best restaurants in Miami offering up bites of the most delicious food in town. VIP guests will also experience the food, fun, and excitement one hour early, at 6 p.m. and will have access to a private VIP 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 are only $45 for general admission and $75 for VIP and are available through ticketfly.com. But hurry, because prices increase July 1 -- and you don't want to miss this epic battle!

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