Bull in a Kitchen Stadium
David vs. Iron Chef
The cheers coming from Theatre 6 at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar last weekend weren't for the Texas-OU game. Nor for the Cowboys' loss in the last seconds to Philadelphia. The screams were for Driskill chef David Bull's team as he entered Kitchen Stadium to do battle with one of the larger egos in food-dom, Bobby Flay.
Just in case you don't watch the Food Network, Flay is a New Yorker with aspirations of being a Texas or New Mexico chef. His restaurants always feature Southwestern ingredients with a spicy kick. He's also learned that you can never go broke pandering to the public sweet tooth. Even, as it turns out, with the judges on Iron Chef America.
Before the show, chef Bull wandered among the crowd, cuddling his daughter Jamison. I was standing next to him when he sidled up to chef de cuisine Josh Watkins. He whispered, "Are you excited?" Watkins' whole face lit up with the biggest smile imaginable. Given the venue and the PR push, I figured chef Bull had won decisively.
The secret ingredient of the night was wild boar. Our Iron Chef challenger showed his mettle by doing the butchery himself, while Flay contented himself chopping onions and giving orders. As Bull expertly removed silver skin and trimmed fat, he sculpted each piece of meat with the care Pygmalion lavished on Galatea.
The theatre was filled with family and friends of chef Bull and his two associates, Watkins and sous chef Jason Maddy. No one knew the results except for the folks who had been there, and they had to sign $1 million confidentiality bonds. The crowd was clearly biased for the home team. Anything Flay did was booed; everything Bull did was cheered. Every time Watkins hit the screen, his vocal contingent whooped and applauded.
As the sauces and cooking methods came together, it was clear Flay was aiming at the judges' sweet tooth. Whole jars of molasses and hoisin sauce and bags of brown sugar disappeared into marinades. Bull's concepts were more balanced and creative.
In the end, the judges chose Flay's food. The crowd at the Alamo was stunned but rose as one to give a standing ovation to Bull and his teammates. I made my way to Bull and asked him how he felt. He loved seeing it on the big screen and said he would do it again in a heartbeat. When I said I thought he should have won, he smiled.
"We're asking Food Network for a rematch."
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