Competition is the new king of food entertainment. Abbey Sharp, a Toronto food blogger, has joined this trend with her Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium series. The finale was held last weekend to wrap up the Delicious Food Show at the Better Living Centre.
I was asked to cover the Delicious Food Show as a (paid) social media reporter on behalf Samuel Adams. The supersize American craft brewery was one of the partners for Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium and provided the competition’s secret ingredients: their Boston Lager and Latitude 48 IPA.
Before the showdown got underway, I took a few minutes to tour around the show floor. At first glance the food truck compound looked like a popular spot. After all, it was equipped with the two things that street food usually lacks – seating and shelter from the elements.
Over closer to the main entrance I found the Lobster Shack, put on by Chef Matt Dean Pettit and the crew from Rock Lobster. In addition to their signature lobster roll, Rock Lobster was also serving their take on a seafood boil and lobster taco. Appropriately the Sam Adams booth was right next door and that made arranging beer and seafood pairings especially easy.
I got to try this year’s version of the Samuel Adams Oktoberfest beer and found it particularly smooth and well-balanced. I also had it confirmed for me that Canada is getting a bigger shipment of Utopias this year, but didn’t manage to wrangle an arrival date.
Back over to the Home Depot-sponsored “Kitchen Stadium” in time to snag a front row spot. The crowd was much bigger than the thirteen disinterested spectators that some trade show demos manage to pull (mainly by offering seating).
For the finale the winners of the first three rounds – Chefs Rodney Bowers from Hey Meatball, Dustin Gallagher of Acadia, and Bruce Woods of Woods Restaurant – were joined by the People’s Champion: Matt Basile, who owns Fidel Gastro’s (the food truck and pop-up venture) and Lisa Marie (the restaurant). The celebrity judging panel included: David Rocco, Leslie Roberts, Christine Cushing, Susur Lee, Toronto Argonaut John Chiles, and Deanna Kaminskyj representing Sam Adams.
From the dishes I had the chance to taste, it was obvious that the chef-contestants had taken their charge to use the secret ingredient seriously. So, here’s my only complaint, and a minor one at that: If you’re a serious chef in one of these secret-ingredient contests (also known as “black box competitions”) you want to feature that ingredient’s one principal flavour in the spotlight. All good so far. But, I cringe when I get the sense that even talented chefs still think of beer as a bitter-only one trick pony. It can be balanced and bring an array of flavours to the party as a majority — it not all — of the dishes demonstrated.
Based on the voice vote I’d say that Matt has the crowd’s heart firmly by the tender bits. Despite that cheering, the onstage panel chose Dustin Gallagher from Acadia as the winner.
Having disclosed that I was paid by Sam Adams to be at the show, I won’t patronise you with of a review of the beer they were pouring. I will say that the availability of good beer (at a decent price) is an appreciated addition. Any show of this size is bound to be a bit overwhelming and some thoughtfully-made libations definitely take the edge off.