Observations from the master of ceremonies of WBEZ's Chicago Chef Battle

September 26, 2011

Five chefs. Five beers. Six hundred judges. WBEZ's sold-out Chicago Chef Battle kicked off the fourth annual Off-Air Event Series yesterday at Goose Island Brewery. Each chef used a different brew as an ingredient. Each guest tasted then voted.

I had the huge honor of awarding the grand prize package to the winning chef.

Heather Terhune, Executive Chef at Sable Kitchen & Bar served "312 beer & apple cider braised pork shoulder sliders with celery root-apple slaw". Heather competes in the upcoming season of Top Chef, it was just announced last week.


Leonard Hollander, Executive Chef at the Marion Street Cheese Market, presented "Harvest Ale brined goat, fall squash cider puree, verjus pickled apples & smoked pecans". He also garnished the dish with a sunflower petal.


Jill Barron, Chef/Partner of Mana food bar, (and Chicago Chef Battle 2009 winner) dished up "Goose Island Sofie beer cheese tamale with mole poblano & pickled radishes". The tamale was also studded with kernels of crisp, sweet corn.


Carlos Ysaguirre, Chef/Partner of Acre, gave us "Goose Island Matilda braised Berkshire pork belly tacos, Green Acres pickled peppers & napa cabbage, Henry's Farm daikon & carrots, with hoisin", a boldly flavored yet subtle take on the Asian influenced taco.


Chris Curren, Chef/Owner of Blue 13, ladled up a "Seafood steampot with spicy tomato & Pere Jacques broth". His dish was surprisingly hot, as in spice and heat, uncommon at events like this, I think heated by the induction burners supplied by Kendall College's Chef Chris Koetke.


Goose Island poured lots of beer of course, and had bottles of soda pop available too, including their seasonally appropriate Concord Grape. Next door neighbor Intelligentsia carefully brewed and served coffee on-site.

WBEZ's own Tony Sarabia, host of Radio M, spun live. Tony, by the way, told me last night that he was a pastry chef before he got into radio.

Each guest/judge cast a vote by pinning the menu board of their favorite dish. The winning board you see below belonged to...

...by an overwhelming majority of votes, Chef Leonard Hollander of Marion Street Cheese Market! Chef Hollander was the underdog in the challenge. He said himself that he wasn't used to these kinds of events, during his acceptance remarks.

Really, all the chefs were winners, and quite frankly so were we, who were lucky enough to eat, drink, and meet for the first of what promises to be another season of unforgettable events to celebrate our city.