Tiny Live Crappie and Mother's Iced Lemonade Cookies

Citywide 86'd round two offered challenging ingredients

The second round of this year's Citywide 86'd competition took place at the Escoffier Academy of Culinary Arts on Sat., March 1. Before an audience of friends and co-workers, contestants from four local restaurant kitchens started the day with 25 minutes to prepare appetizers to present to the judges.

courtesy Cultivate PR
Although Carly Yansak covered the four-month-long competition for the Austin Chronicle daily online edition last spring and I attended the finale at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center (1900 University Blvd), this was my first experience with the early rounds of the contest. I was lucky enough to be invited to join the judging panel for the second round. My fellow judges were Swift's Attic pastry chef, Callie Speer; last year's winner, John Hajash of Congress Austin; and Agua Dulce Farm owner Jack Waite, who also provided some of the ingredients used in the three rounds of competition.
Cooks Bradley Nicholson and Amanda Turner ready to start the appetizer round (Photo by Cultivate PR)

The city-wide competition grew out of a cook's challenge that started at Uchi a few years back. Once word got around to other restaurants about what was happening, other cooks wanted in. Last year's rounds were held in the open kitchen at Uchiko with no cooks from either Uchi or Uchiko entering because of the home-field advantage. Competing in the neutral kitchens at the Escoffier school makes it possible for all the interested restaurants to participate. In last month's first round, the cooks were Lauren Ortiz of Uchi, Jessica Rupert of Qui, Fernando Camacho of Parkside, and Michael Walston of Trace. Ortiz emerge the victor in the round and will compete in the finals in June. She was in the audience on Saturday, checking out her future competition.

From the left: Oscar Yip, Bradley Nicholson, Zack Hanson, and Amanda Turner (Photo by Cultivate PR)
Competitors in the second round were Zack Hanson from Sway Thai, Bradley Nicholson from Barley Swine, Amanda Turner from Odd Duck, and Oscar Yip, from Olive & June.

In the appetizer round, cooks were given 25 minutes to create a dish using tiny live crappie (from Agua Dulce) and iced lemonade cookies along with greens and some lemon-lime soda. Watching them catch, kill, and filet the little fish was exciting for the audience.

Tiny live crappie from Agua Dulce Farm (Photo by Cultivate PR)

Zack Hanson was 86'd after the first round, so Oscar, Bradley, and Lauren moved on to entrees with local, grass-fed beef, several kinds of beets, and Mother's ribbon cookies. All three cooks had trouble delivering tender slices of beef, but the cookies were not as big a stumbling block as anticipated - Oscar turned them into breading for chicken-fried steak that was pretty tasty and earned a spot in the final, opposite Bradley. Amanda was 86'd after the entree round.

Entree round ingredients (Photo by Cultivate PR)

The dessert ingredients included more cookies - vanilla wafers this time, plus quince, balsamic vinegar, tart labneh cheese, and green chile-infused EVOO. Both cooks went straight for the liquid nitrogen to make a frozen component for their dessert offerings, but covering or incorporating the green chile flavor turned out to be the biggest challenge in the final round.

Dishes presented for the dessert round (Photo by Cultivate PR)
Oscar's quince sherbet (left, above) had an unfortunate grainy texture and an unpleasant chile aftertaste. Bradley used the EVOO as the fat ingredient in a funnel cake batter and did a better job of hiding the chile flavor, dusting the hot funnel cake (right, above) with powdered sugar and topping it with quince ice cream made from a creamy custard base. That dish won the day for Bradley Nicholson, and so he moves on to the finale in June.
Oscar Yip (right) congratulating Bradley Nicholson (Photo by Cultivate PR)

The next round of Citywide 86'd will take place on Saturday, April 5, at 10am. The preliminary rounds of the competition are by invitation only but it will be possible to buy tickets to the finals, which will be held in June at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Citywide 86'd competition
Citywide 86'd Preliminary Rounds Complete
Citywide 86'd Preliminary Rounds Complete
Four cooks move forward into final round

Virginia B. Wood, May 6, 2014

Citywide 86'd Holds Round 3 at Central Market
Citywide 86'd Holds Round 3 at Central Market
Local cooks competed for a spot in the June finals

Virginia B. Wood, April 30, 2014

More by Virginia B. Wood
Top 10 Savory Bites
Top 10 Savory Bites

Jan. 1, 2016

Open Secret
Open Secret
The not-so-hidden pleasures of dine

Dec. 25, 2015


Citywide 86'd competition, Citywide 86'd, Uchi, Escoffier Academy of Culinary Arts, Bradley Nicholson, Amanda Turner, Oscar Yip,, Parkside, Odd Duck, Barley Swine, Sway Thai, Trace, Qui, Lauren Ortiz, Jessica Rupert, Fernando Camacho, Michael Walston, Callie Speer, John Hajash, Jack Waite

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle