There was tension in the air at the Hyatt Regency Miami as two chef/warriors prepared for battle. Everything was in place.
Judges Timon Balloo (Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill), Adrianne Calvo (Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar), and Jamie DeRosa (Tongue & Cheek) were settled in at their table as MC extraordinaire Chef Allen Susser announced the rules.
Chefs Aaron "Thunder From Down Undah" Brooks, assisted by chef Jose Gamez, made up team Edge Steak & Bar, and Todd "Top Shelf" Erickson, assisted by Michelle Saavedra, comprised team Haven and Huahua's Taqueria.
Each team would have 15 minutes to make a "Miami snack" using a mystery ingredient per round. Judges would vote and the "best out of three" would win the coveted Iron Fork Skillet of Excellence and bragging rights for a year.
The first mystery item was revealed to be smoked salmon and the timer started. Immediately, both chefs set into action, incorporating the salmon into their on-the-fly dishes.
The winner for round one was Aaron Brooks' smoked salmon and manchego melt, accompanied by house-made chips and dip.
Judge Adrienne Calvo suggested a nice cocktail (perhaps made with some of the Botran rum the judges were enjoying) for the second mystery ingredient -- clementines.
Although chef Aaron Brooks' seafood dish of clams, bay scallops, and shrimp in coconut milk with a clementine chimichurri looked fantastic, it was Erickson's shrimp and chorizo skewers, lathered in his own version of a citrus marinade that won this round.
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The tie breaking third round challenged both chefs with breadfruit. Although a staple food in many parts of the world, it usually takes way more than 15 minutes to cook properly. Although chef Aaron Brooks' creamed breadfruit with banana and sesame looked delightful, it was Todd Erickson's take on a South Florida caramelized fruit salad with the mystery ingredient, plaintains, ginger, and pistachios the won the round -- and the competition.
As Chef Erickson was presented with the Iron Fork Skillet of Excellence, he thanked his formidable opponent, noting that they had faced off against each other in multiple competitions and it felt good to finally win. Congratulations to both chefs for a wonderful competition.