Chef vs Chef: Epic Culinary Battle


Summer weekly competition at Max’s Harvest showcases local chefs, ingredients to benefit Boys & Girls Club

As with any prizefight, the true fans show up early. The foodies, the followers and the competition junkies claim the best seats at Max’s Harvest for the Wednesday night Chef vs. Chef events. It’s an evening that combines the best of culinary creativity, interactive performance and gritty will – all with Happy Hour drinks and $5 appetizers. “Chef vs. Chef was conceived to draw out that summertime crowd we knew was there,” said Dennis Max, established South Florida restaurateur and owner of Max’s Harvest. “People who love food know how much it takes to prepare a dish well. We wanted to showcase the amazing local talent, locally-sourced ingredients, and of course, the ambiance of Max’s Harvest. The response has been amazing.” 16 Will Enter the Kitchen; Only One Will Leave Victorious Chef vs. Chef has invited 16 area chefs to compete in the structured environment of Max’s Harvest kitchen to create dishes with three mystery ingredients. The meals are prepared in full view of an enthusiastic crowd and are judged by select food industry personalities. Each week, a new pair of chefs competes, and a winner emerges to compete again in the Quarter Finals competition, hoping to move on to the Semi-Finals and ultimately the Finals. The weekly competitions began June 17 and will continue through September 23, when a Grand Prize winner will be named. The event series benefits the Naoma Donnelley Haggin Boys & Girls Club in Delray Beach. For the first competition, the crowd stood shoulder to shoulder as Adam Brown, executive chef of The Cooper, squared off against Ben Burger, executive chef of Neiman Marcus. Dennis Max, Bill Hansen and Jan Norris judged their dishes, which featured eggplant, salmon and sea beans. Brown won the initial bout. “The inspiration for me in both dishes that I created was using the ingredients in a way that each one had its own identity and purpose. I really wanted the judges to discover what techniques can do to the ingredients,” Brown said. “I especially enjoyed working with Nancy’s eggplant, smoking, pickling and grilling it. Eggplant is so versatile and really acts like a sponge.” Competition Pits Chefs Against Each Other and the Clock Given the limited amount of time in which to prepare a prize-winning dish, chefs must be able to determine not only the best use of the ingredients, but also how to optimize the clock. The competition is based on the popular TV show, “Knife Fights,” which also has contestants constantly checking their watches. “Honestly, the most challenging part for me was the timing,” Brown said. “It was down to the wire for me with the ‘quick’ pickled eggplant. It took forever for my pickling liquid to come to a boil, which threw off my game plan a little bit.” Competition Continues through September 23 If attendance at the first two Chef vs. Chef events is any indicator, Max’s Harvest has created something special. On June 24, James Strine, executive chef of Café Boulud, battled with Paul Niedermann, executive chef of Hudson’s, and the crowd was equally as enthralled. The actual competition begins at 10:00 p.m., but patrons begin filling up the space at 8 p.m. Max’s Harvest dinner menu is served until 8:30 p.m., at which time, the Happy Hour drinks and $5 small plates menu are offered, because the kitchen is otherwise occupied. The energy is palpable, the decibel level is high, and it doesn’t feel like a Wednesday night. “Any other time, I love Max’s Harvest for the food and service, but during Chef vs. Chef, it’s a whole other level of entertainment,” said patron Sheri Dober of Boynton Beach. “My friends and I come for that Delray Beach vibe and stay after the competition is over to enjoy the outdoor patio and people.” If You Go: When: Guests begin arriving at 8:00 p.m. The competition starts at 10:00 p.m., Wednesdays through Sept. 23 Where: Max’s Harvest, 169 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444;; 561-381-9970 Cost: $10 donation includes one complimentary beer, wine or cocktail. Food and drinks available at Happy Hour prices

Upcoming Chef vs. Chef competitions

Week 3 – July 1: Victor Meneses, El Camino vs. Victor Franco, Oceans 234 Judges: Jamie Frankel, Donna Molinaro and Danielle Linscott Week 4 – July 8: Danielle Herring, Rebel House vs. Che Frey, Henry’s Judges: Renee Korbel Quinn, Deby Goldfarb, John Paul Kline Week 5 – July 15: John Thomas, Tryst vs. Aaron Goldberg, Bogart’s Judges: Karen Granger, Charlie Byrne, Katy Lynch Week 6 – July 22: Eric Grutka, Ian’s Tropical Grill vs. Jarod Higgins, Cut 432 Judges: Dave Ortiz, Nita Summers, Caryn Pomeranz Week 7 – July 29: Kelley Randall, The Office vs. Bruce Feingold, Dada Judges: Justin Tompkins, Andrea Garcia, Rich Garcia Week 8 – August 5: Chris Miracolo, S3 vs. Blake Malatesta, 50 Ocean Judges: Becca Tebon, Evan David, Cary Roman Quarter Finals: Week 9 – August 12 Week 10 – August 19 Week 11 – August 26 Week 12 – Sept. 2 Semifinals: Week: 13 – Sept. 9 Week 14 – Sept. 16 Finals Week 15 – Sept. 23