Last night on the patio of Perennial Virant, the summer heat was turned up a notch when two of the Boka group's titans faced off over Dietzler Farms flank steak. Chris Pandel (The Bristol, Balena), the reigning champ, was in his usual jovial mood during the pre-game. When asked about his expectations for the night, he quipped, “Steph’s had tons of practice at this. I’m no one.”
Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat), also in her laid back way, seemed ready for yet another quickfire food challenge. “I try not to take this stuff too seriously. I just want to have fun and not make anything gross.” Some light ribbing went on as well when Pandel grabbed a pot of water and Stephanie asked, “Are you going to boil stuff?”
Once the flank steak was revealed, both had to choose five ingredients to incorporate into their dish. Izard won the coin toss and started the picking with rice krispies. She then went on to grab Perennial Virant pickled beans, okra, watermelon and nori. Pandel chose Dr. Pepper, tomatoes, yellow peppers, eggplant and goat liver.
The pace was fast from the start. The Pandel side quickly began roasting their vegetables and grilling the liver while the flank steak marinated in the Dr. Pepper. Izard immediately began making a spiced butter and her sous chef started chopping the steak for a tartare. The time went by and the heat was palpable not only over the grills, but also among the crowd as it grew both inside the restaurant and out on the patio. Chef Paul Virant was keen to watch the start and Giuseppe Tentori stopped by as well.
Boka group co-owner Kevin Boehm was the ringmaster and commented the competition will have hopefully one more challenge this season. “It is a make it, take it format. The winner stays," he said. "I’d love to get some chefs who don’t normally do this out here maybe Graham Elliot, Curtis Duffy or Homaro Cantu. It’d be great to see him with a nitrogen tank.”
The crowd’s enthusiasm was apparent and several passersby stopped to check out the action as the corner quickly became a growing mass of onlookers. The chefs often asked for time checks, very aware of the task at hand. It was quickly apparent that Pandel was going for a flatbread; hmmm, was there some pre-planning? It makes one wonder if the humble "awe shucks" attitude is hiding a deep, competitive fire. Izard worked at a methodical pace and it wasn’t so easy to see what her final product would be. She played to the crowd and appeared to go about her business during the hour like a grizzled veteran of many timed challenges.
Both finished in time and began their plating. The flatbread was heaped high and Pandel called it a Providence, Rhode Island Pizza with charred eggplant and goat liver puree, topped with tomato, chilies and marinated flank steak. Izard plated an Ethiopian Tartare with a grilled okra, bean salad garnished with spiced krispies and watermelon rind.
The crowd eagerly consumed both plates and appeared to enjoy both dishes. Yet only one could win and when the final votes were tallied, Izard was named the winner. Now we wait to see who steps up to the challenge to take her on and hold the quickfire crown over the winter months.
· Pandel Bests Virant in First Boka Quickfire Competition [~EChi~]