For the grand finale, the 2013 Classic Cook-Off featured a competition pitted between Andrew Zimmern and Geoffrey Zakarian, and was hosted by the vivacious Sissy Biggers. Sissy is a well-known host and life-style expert on the Food Network and PBS, as well as a contributor to the Today show on NBC. Geoffrey Zakarian’s career spans over 20 years in the culinary world, from Chef de Cuisine at Le Cirque to becoming Iron Chef, restauranteur and author. Also check him out in the July/August 2013 edition of Departures magazine zipping around Vegas with fellow celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Marcus Samuelsson, and Scott Conant. Andrew Zimmern, best known as the host of Bizarre Food with Andrew Zimmern on the Food Network, is a James Beard award-winning TV personality, chef, teacher and food writer.
|They revved up the audience by passing out splits of Mionetto Prosecco|
Each chef was given a basket of secret ingredients and 25 minutes in which to create “Sissy’s Summer Solstice Sunday Supper”. In addition, a secret ingredient was chosen specifically for each chef by the Twitterverse. Plus, the chefs were allowed to use any left-overs from the previous classes that they happened upon in the fridge. The baskets yielded a rabbit (with giblets), zucchini, and a bag of Beer Cheddar Kettle chips. Zimmern was given the secret ingredient of black mustard seed, and aided by Allison Janney as sous-chef. Allison is an Emmy-award winning actress now appearing with Steve Carell in the film The Way, Way Back, and will star in a new TV sitcom this fall, Mom. Shiso, an herb commonly found in Asian cuisine that is a member of the mint family, was chosen for Zakarian. He was joined by a band member from The Spazmatics, who had been playing the night before at The Belly-Up bar.
Sissy kept a running commentary during the cooking and both chefs were calm and cool as they took jabs at one another while preparing tasty cocktails for Sissy, and themselves, of course. From Zakarian, a “Mad Men” inspired cocktail with gin, rum and orange juice; from Zimmern, an elderberry and four citrus margarita.
Zimmern, claiming he is a better man because of Minnesota, produced an extensive menu which included the following: black truffle and cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches; a mixed grill of braided lamb sausage (resembling large pretzels), rabbit, zucchini and bacon hash (with bits of seared rabbit livers, kidneys, and heart), and rabbit loin coated with black mustard seed; a souffle with truffles, herbs, and three cheeses topped with the Beer Cheddar chips; and a clementine, mint, fennel and radish salad.
Zakarian presented his meal in courses. Course one: Beer Cheddar potato chip crusted tuna with Chinese five spice; course two: grilled salmon, date, fennel and apricot salad with shiso vinaigrette; course three: rabbit, zucchini, new potato and tarragon hash topped with fried eggs. Sadly, according to government regulations on food safety, no one was allowed to taste any of it. But the audience voted and Zimmern and Jennies were the winners.
On a side note, the day before the cook-off, my sister and I bumped into Zimmern on the street, and had a lively conversation about eating jumiles in central Mexico. About 12 years ago, I had the horrific experience of watching Hubby and a friend from Cuernavaca eat these bugs LIVE in tacos. As I recall, I think I ended up walking out of the restaurant. I asked Zimmern if he had tried eating live jumiles, and, naturally, he was very familiar with them. I found him to be funny, intelligent, and gracious…lovely traits all around. I suppose he would say that is because of Minnesota. Have a wonderful post-Fourth of July week!