[Editor's Note: Scroll down for photos from each entry and commentary by some of the tournament participants. All photos by View Staff]
Tournament summary: two entrants from each team (chef and sous chef) receive a "mystery basket" full of ingredients; they are then given one hour to put together two servings of the same dish for judging. Entrants may only use the ingredients in their baskets, though they are not required to use everything in the basket. All cooking tools are provided by the competitors, including any equipment to cook on. All food preparation is done in a designated area in front of the judges. The entries are judged on taste, presentation, and creativity.
2017 Cleaved Basket Ingredients
Pink salmon in a pouch, ground pork sausage, rib-eye steak
Biscuit mix, instant grits, instant Ramen with beef flavoring
Fruits and Vegetables:
Chopped olives, Lima beans, tomato paste, mandarin orange fruit cup, craisins, whole avocado, canned mixed vegetables
Salted peanuts, cheddar-flavored snack cheese, mayonnaise, canola oil, evaporated milk, Coca-Cola, apple & white grape juice, shaved coconut
Salt, pepper, basil, oregano, red pepper, onion powder, cumin, and garlic & pepper seasoning
- Raynor (Nick Quadrini) and Katya (Rachel DeRosa)
|Chef Raynor hard at work|
|The finished dish|
My dish : Coconut peanut steak with cheddar biscuits and a sausage vegetable mash.
This was my first year competing in Cleaved, and it was awesome. I'm a big fan of the inspiration Chopped, and came into the challenge confident in my improv abilities. But the moment that basket opened up, my mind went blank. It's one thing to come up with creative food, another to do it with limited time & ingredients and knowing you're about to be judged against three other very capable competitors.
During the cooking, we made a few 'test' foods to see how the flavors came out, and get a better grasp of using our cooking setup. This helped us to drop some less than stellar ideas and made sure we didn't serve burnt biscuits. After some time spent cooking practice foods the ideas started to come together and an actual meal was planned, and executed. Nothing turns out exactly as you hoped of course, but I'm proud of what we put together and we had a great time.
When we finished plating the time ended, right on the dot. I hadn't looked up from my station before that, and when I brought my food to the judges and got to see the other teams' dishes I was blown away. Everyone had come up with a good looking, smelling, and completely different dish. I don't envy the judges for having to pick a winner, but I do envy them getting to eat all of that good-looking food.
A special thanks to my sous chef Rachel who stepped in last minute and was a huge help. I had a great time competing in Cleaved this year, you can bet I'll be back. And congratulations to Queen Jack who took it all home this weekend, your food looked spectacular and I bet it tasted great too. - Nick Quadrini
- Rillan (Joe Sims) and his Sous Chef
|Examining the basket ingredients|
|Things begin to come together|
|Dish #1: savory breakfast plate|
|Dish #2: dinner plate|
The Queen of Hearts Cleaved tournament was one of the most challenging and at the same time rewarding tournaments I was a part of this weekend. The concept of taking unknown and mysterious ingredients and attempting to make something not only edible and presentable, but good enough to win is a lot harder than you think. You must be good with adapting and quick thinking, as well as knowing your flavor profiles and how to cook and work with what you are given.
My sous chef and I created a variety of samplings for the judges. We went for a savory breakfast plate of flaky basil biscuits covered in sweet sausage gravy with a side of creamy cheese grits. We also decided to do a dinner plate that consisted of mandarin orange beef stir-fry, with a side of roasted vegetables topped with garlic and herb salmon and fresh avocado. Not winning the competition was a little disappointing but still rewarding and grateful for the experience. Congratulations to the winners on team Jack, and all the competitors in this competition. I’m sure if all of us were to ever combine efforts to arrange a feast the results would be phenomenal! - Rillan/ Joe
- Jinx and K (Jana and Ben Greene)
|Coming up with a plan|
|Working together to execute the dish|
|The finished product|
Team Jack **WINNER**
- Jack (John Berrini) and Nhadala (Hannah Blood)
|The finished dish|
The Cleaved Tourney at QOH is trying to put together your best dish based on a mystery bag of ingredients. When Nhadala (Hannah Blood) and I opened our picnic basket, we went to work quick with ideas and imagination that would morph a few times before it was ready to serve and take the gold an hour later.
With only an hour to cook, my instinct told me to put flame to meat first. The steak portion didn’t seem large enough for the two required servings so we finely shredded and stretched it with sausage meat, flavored with salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste, a bit of tomato paste for a red color palate and to smooth the texture. The spicy meat sauce was served over ramen noodles that were first boiled, and then fried.
Our side was a Salmon Avocado salad served over sliced avocado.
Our Mandarin cobber dessert was prepared and served in a repurposed olive can. It included biscuit starch and shredded coconut to taste, finished off with a cinnamon apple caramel drizzle prepared from reduced juice. Without an oven to work with we put the can directly in a two quart pot of boiling juice, effectively making a double boiler into an oven letting the juice steam absorb into the bread while it reduced and reaching close enough to the 400 degrees needed for the bread to cook
The competition was fierce and challenging. I would have eaten anything prepared by our completion.