If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.Unfortunately, even then it wasn’t much cooler.But an air-conditioning malfunction at Thursday’s Top Chef Challenge competition at Texas Appliance in Hurst didn’t seem to evaporate the excitement of those who came to watch the annual culinary battle, now in it’s fourth year.Hosted by Fort Worth, Texas magazine, the competition pitted area chefs against each other in two preliminary rounds. Chefs are chosen by fan vote and Weatherford’s Eric Hunter, chef/owner at Fire Oak Grill, and Jerrrett Joslin, chef/owner at The Wild Mushroom, each were among the six chefs elected. Hunter has been in the competition since it began but this was the first year Joslin received an invite. The competition consists of a blind taste test, a culinary skills challenge and a cooking portion where chefs are given a secret protein to use in their dishes. Cooking accounts for 60 percent of a chef’s final score, with the skills and blind taste test counting 20 percent each. Chefs are split into two groups of three for the cooking portion but all six compete together for the skills and taste test. Four move on to the finals, set for Aug. 15 at Cendera Center, while the other two are eliminated.Hunter and Joslin were tied at two points each after the blind taste test but Hunter won the skills test that required each of the chefs to break down a whole duck into six traditional pieces and then crack the backbone in the fastest time. As luck would have it, Hunter and Joslin were grouped together, along with Del Frisco’s chef Anthony Felli, in the second cooking group of the evening. When the secret protein of red snapper was revealed, chefs had 30 minutes to prepare a dish for tasting by head judge Tim Love, CBS 11’s Tammy Dombeck, KSCS’s Mark “Hawkeye” Louis and celebrity chef Carol Ritchie. Judges were unaware whose dishes they were tasting and which chefs went in what groups. Hunter prepared a pan-seared snapper with a fig gastrique, fingerling potatoes and a salad of hearts of palm and peaches. Joslin also chose to make pan-seared snapper and fingerling potatoes but served his with kale and a lemon vinaigrette. Hawkeye said Hunter’s plate was “visually exciting” and Dombeck said she liked the fig and the fish combination. Ritchie said the dish showed creativity and imagination. Love, however, was somewhat confused by the plate, saying that each of the components were good but that it seemed disconnected. Joslin’s critique was somewhat mixed as Dombeck said his presentation was “dull” and Hawkeye wasn’t fond of the raw onions, noting that since there were cooked onions also on the plate it didn’t make sense. Ritchie and Love were both happy with the kale but Love said the potatoes lacked seasoning and that his fish was served upside down. After tallying up the scores from all three rounds, Joslin’s dish didn’t make the cut and he was eliminated. “I enjoyed it,” Joslin told the judges when asked what his favorite part of the evening was. “[Thirty minutes] seemed like 30 seconds...next year, I hope it’s beef.”Hunter said the competition was “fun to get to hang out with the other chefs.”“The camaraderie and the competitive spirit isn’t something we get to do normally,” he said.
Melissa Winn, 817-594-9902, Ext. 104 Twitter: @scoopmdw3701