Iron Fork

Timon Balloo and Carlos Torres On Upcoming Chef vs. Chef Match

The 4th Annual Iron Fork event takes place Thursday, October 20th, from 7 to 10 pm at Ice Palace Film Studios in Downtown Miami (make sure to bring earmuffs -- I've heard it said that ice palaces can be cold). Lots of restaurants will be participating -- too many to list here, but a few highlights are AltaMare, Hakkasan, db Bistro Moderne, Chef Adrienne's Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar, Makoto, Barton G, Rosa Mexicano, Latin Burger and Taco, Fifi's Place Restaurant...

So yes, rest assured there will be plenty of fine food and drink. But what we're really looking forward to is the Chef vs. Chef competition. Carlos Torres will be defending the crown that he and Jose Luis Flores of De Rodriguez Ocean won last year, defeating John Critchley of Area 31. Critchley is gone now, and so is Flores (executive sous chef Torres is now executive chef). I'm telling you, this grueling competition takes its toll on winners and losers alike!

The pre-bout weigh-in was tense. "That Carlos dude get too close, a Globe edge be in his gut," shouted Timon Balloo, practically spitting out his words. "You tell the fool Balloo to watch his ass," shot back Carlos Torres, reaching for his cleaver as he spoke. 

Oh no, wait -- that's from the Hollywood script I'm preparing for a docu-drama about the event. In real life, both were a bit more gentleman-like than that. 

​Each chef will be handed a basket of foods that they will be told of beforehand -- except for one secret ingredient. I started by asking each chef what ingredient they were hoping would not show up as the secret one. Balloo, Sugarcane's head chef since day one, would least like to see "ostrich or jellyfish." Torres, who has been with D-Rod since OLA at The Savoy, said "the only thing that worries me is the kind of protein they may give us -- if it's a hard piece of meat it could be tough to cook in 45 minutes. I'm not afraid of working with anything, it's just the timing." 

​​At Iron Fork III, Flores and Torres' winning dishes were a "fire and ice" appetizer that paired lime juice granita with snapper ceviche, stone crab and shrimp; and a "surf and turf" entree of tuna causa with stone crab and steak tartare.

Each chef gets to bring equipment and two ingredients from their kitchen. "I'll probably bring a cannister to make foam," said Torres. "Last year someone brought liquid nitrogen, and it was cool, so maybe a little of that." It's starting to become apparent that Carlos is willing to pull out all the stops. "Or a smoking gun..."

I thought both chefs would be strict in protecting the secrecy of which two ingredients they would be bringing, but Torres said straight up what I thought was "a Colombian flower." It was only when he then said he was thinking of doing an arepa Colombiana, that I figured out he meant "flour." "I'm working on the other thing -- we're training next week." 

Chef Balloo was even more forthcoming. "I will bring a micro plane zester, ponzu sauce and sherry vinegar."

Will their uniforms be flashy or traditional? I asked, a sure sign I was running out of questions. "Traditional," came the quick reply from both, although Balloo added that "the thought of dressing up like Captain Jack Sparrow sounds cool." 

Looks like Balloo is trying to get into Torres' head a la Ali.

I reminded Timon that John Critchley was gone from Area 31 not long after coming up short in this competition last year against the De Rodriguez Ocean team. Did this make him nervous?

"HELL YES!!," he replied, "I need my job." 

So there may be more on the line here than one might imagine. Plus this year's Iron Fork will also feature a Fighting Food Trucks Taco Tangle, which we'll tell you about next week. That sounds messy, so along with the earmuffs you might want to bring a plastic poncho.

See you at the weigh-in.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein