Friday, July 18, 2014

Sidebar - Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament

We were perhaps a bit overzealous when we wrote our most recent book, Baltimore Chef's Table, and handed in far too many words. Unfortunately, this meant some of them needed to be cut, among them several recipes and sidebars. We're posting some of those sidebars here on Minxeats. Think of them as supplemental material.

Back in 2009, after recognizing the popularity of the many kitchen competition shows on the airwaves, Baltimore native and SYSCO food service professional Erik Folkart, an amateur chef himself, decided that local food industry people deserved the same opportunity. While not televised, his competition would allow chefs and restaurants in the Baltimore-Washington area to participate in an event that would showcase their businesses, promote their geographic area, and help their communities through charitable contributions.

After talking to several chefs, restaurants, and suppliers, Erik realized that his idea could take off. He partnered with sister-in-law Karen Folkart, an experienced marketing professional, to start Mason Dixon Master Chef, LLC. And with the help of many people, including generous sponsors willing to supply food and financial support, chefs willing to give up their nights off to compete, and judges donating time and expertise, the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament became a reality.

The Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament is a multi-week, single elimination tournament. In each battle, competing chefs have one hour to prepare three courses, which are judged on taste, plating, and creativity. One chef goes on to the next round, while the other chef is sent home. These one-on-one battles go on until the finale, when one chef ultimately emerges victorious.

The competition is open to the ticket-buying public, who are encouraged to watch the chefs complete their pre-match cold prep up close and personal, then sit back and enjoy the competition as it unfolds. Special “Judge Experience” tickets allow some audience members to taste the chefs’ entrĂ©es and assist in judging.

The first tournament was held in 2010, at the venerable Belvedere in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, with Moveable Feast acting as charity partner. After a year off, the competition was back in 2011 at Blob’s Park Bavarian Beer Garden in Jessup, MD and in 2012 was back in Baltimore City at Mari Luna Bistro. Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland was beneficiary of some of the proceeds in those years.

During the first three years of the tournament, numerous local chefs and food writers (including yours truly) participated as judges, masters-of-ceremony, and participants. This list of local culinary luminaries includes Sergio Vitale of Aldo’s and Chazz, Ted Stelzemuller of Jack’s Bistro, Chad Gauss of the Food Market, Jirat Suphrom of My Thai, Neal Langermann of Langermann’s, Chris Lewis of Iron Bridge Wine Company, Sarah Simington of Blue Moon Cafe, and Neill Howell, of Bond Street Social, who was the tournament winner in 2013. They competed using donated ingredients from local companies like Tulkoff, McCormick, Holly Poultry, Congressional Seafood, and Phillips Food, among many others.

2014 will bring a new season of competition, one that we hope will feature many of the chefs within these pages!

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