We know our cooks can cook. We are constantly impressed with their work ethic and talent, working 14 hours a day to make food they are proud of. But besides family meal, (which they take very seriously,) we haven’t see what our cooks at Birch and Barley can come up with from scratch. So naturally we were really excited when NRG decided to do an iron chef style contest at each restaurant. The winners will compete in a BBQ-off at the company picnic in a few weeks.
Each restaurant was to come up with their own rules for their contest. We decided to give a nod to Cochon 555, a pig centric cooking competition held yearly, by having our own version, Cochon 666. Get it. With all the whole pigs we have been getting in at Birch and Barley, it just seemed appropriate. The rules were as follows:
- 3 courses (appetizer/entree/dessert) needed to be prepared in 1.5 hours
- Of the 4 cuts of meat offered (liver, loin, belly, shoulder) at least 3 had to used to create an appetizer & entree
- pantry items are fair game
- the dessert would include a secret ingredient, to be announced at the start of the 90 minute contest
Oh, and did I mention each restaurant had to get a “celebrity judge”… We were lucky enough to lure in Nycci Nellis, who offered a great, positive energy sprinkled with just the right amount of critique. Perfect.
So it began. Pastry Assistant Jes Kearney, Meat Cook Mike Hanney, Entremet Gennaro Esposito and Hot apps cook Paul Kostandin spent 90 minutes cooking and I was one of the lucky taste testers! Pork & black garlic sausage with pan seared gnocchi and pesto, stuffed pan roasted loin with fried green tomatoes, shaved ice – Philly style and half smoke with the most perfect spaetzel I’ve ever had. Hanney even rigged a smoker out of two pots and a beer pipe. In the end it was Paul that took the prize, (although it was close… everything was really really great!) His menu was amazing! Appetizer of tortelloni stuffed with cranberry bean purse served with seared bacon/veg and pan seared deviled pork liver. The liver was so creamy. The entree was seared pork loin with grilled watermelon, a spicy stir fry of bok choy & sugar snap peas, and a biscuit puree. For dessert Paul made a puree of plums and ginger which he drizzled over shaved ice then topped with whipped cream and candied ginger.
Besides bragging rights, which is the best prize of all, Paul won a gift card to Woodberry Kitchen, one of our favorite restaurants, and a trophy unlike any I’ve ever seen. A pig skull painted red with… well, you can see it in the pictures below.
It was a proud moment for both Kyle and I, watching our young, aspiring chefs create and be judged by us and themselves, (Kyle was sure to tell his cooks the self judging was going to be the hardest part… Having people taste your food when you know there are things that could be better.) I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
Now, on to the show…