Words By Logan Hollers, Photos By Clarissa Villondo
Some of D.C.’s best and brightest chefs and mixologists competed Tuesday at the third annual Chilean Chef Challenge Food & Cocktail Battle, presented by Chilean Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdés, Foods From Chile, and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.
Both groups were tasked with creating a dish or a cocktail using the best ingredients Chile has to offer; according to Ambassador Valdés, Chile is particularly proud of its exports of salmon, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, almonds, honey, merquén (a Chilean smoked spice blend), prunes, mussels and pork.
Guests mingled, sampled unlimited small plates of the chefs’ creations, and ogled a table piled high with Chilean foodstuffs. Even better? A booze battle in which six of D.C.’s top cocktail masters were given the same challenge as the chefs: use Chilean ingredients to make something delicious.
Though the final tally was close, Chef Victor Albisu of Del Campo took home the Judges’ Choice award with his visually stunning (and ridiculously delicious) Salt-baked Chilean salmon with merquén-spiced white beans, chanterelle mushrooms, charred escarole, and an a la minute bagna cauda.
On the cocktail side, the judges chose Tim Russell of Kyirisan for his “Winter is Coming”, featuring Waqar pisco, apricot brandy, Szechuan peppercorn syrup, and lemon juice.
As for the People’s Choice awards, best plate went to Chef Steve Mason of the Grilled Oyster Co. and his smoked mussel with merquén. Best cocktail was awarded to Amin Seddiq of Del Campo for his cheekily named “The Bad Hombre”, a mixture of cucumber-infused Alto Del Carmen pisco, fresh lime, champagne, and a gorgeously bright red beet syrup.
Full list of participants (and the photos you came here for) below:
Victor Albisu, Del Campo: Salt-baked Chilean salmon with merquén-spiced white beans, chanterelle mushrooms, charred escarole, and bagna cauda
Nathan Beauchamp, The Fainting Goat: Prune Barbecue Shredded Duck with merquén and endive
Steve Mason, The Grilled Oyster Co.: Smoked mussels with merquén
George Rodrigues, Tico: Cured Salmon and smoked avocado with rica rica
Rob Rubba, Hazel: Smoked mussel and merquén duck sausage with a mandarin orange emulsion on a homemade shrimp chip
Rodney Scruggs, Occidental Grill & Seafood: Cold Smoked Trout with prune puree, merquén crust, ginger, and fall florals and greens
Theary So, Hank’s Oyster Bar: Sous Vide Duck with mandarin orange, extra virgin olive oil, and chañar syrup
Adrian Cane, Tico: “Monte Verde” – pisco Armidita, yerba mate, rosemary, mint, pine nut, orange oil
Nick Farrell, Iron Gate: “Pisco Sbagliato” – Kappa pisco, orange rica rica syrup, sparkling wine
AJ Johnson, Macon Bistro: “Honey Chile” – pisco Capel, jalapeño-papaya syrup, honey, cayenne pepper foam
James Nelson, BLT Steak: “La Rosa Hermosa” – pisco Bou Barroeta, rose hip syrup, lemon, champagne espuma
Tim Russell, Kyirisan: “Winter is Coming” – Waqar pisco, apricot brandy, Szechuan peppercorn syrup, lemon juice
Amin Seddiq, Del Campo: “The Bad Hombre – cucumber-infused Alto Del Carmen pisco, fresh lime, champagne, beet syrup