The Ultimate Steak Challenge 2:
The Dry-Aged Steak Challenge
November 12 | 7pm | Restoration
Presented by Empire
An HK Magazine Event
And the winner is... Chef Aarik Persaud of The Butchers' Club!
The Diners' Vote (50%) was decided in favor of Chef Jack 'The Choirboy' Carson of Restoration. However, the Judges' Vote (50%) went to Chef Aarik 'Mr T-Bone' Persaud of The Butchers Club. The difference between the two chefs' final scores was close, but in the end, it was Chef Aarik's decisive win over the judges that made him Hong Kong's Steak King 2013.
The esteemed panel of judges with esteemed palates was made up of:
Adele Wong, Deputy Editor, HK Magazine
Janice Leung-Hayes, Founder, Island East Market
Harlan Goldstein, Chef-Owner, Gold and Striphouse
Mark Cholewka, Chef and Restaurateur, Shore Hospitality
Richard Ekkebus, Executive Chef, Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
EMPIRE Founder Jason Black opened the competition by emphasizing that the evening's decision should be just about the main course - the steaks. The only question that needed an answer was, Who cooked the steak you liked better?
Both chefs served dry-aged rib-eye served on-the-bone. Chef Jack picked an 88-day dry aged USDA and and Chef Aarik had a 45-day dry aged free roaming Australian. It might have looked like Chef Aarik was at an immediate disadvantage, cooking with meat that had just a bit over half the number of days to dry age as Chef Jack's. But Jonathan Glover from The Butchers Club emerged from the kitchen to talk about the kind of beef that Chef Arik would be serving. The ensuing discourse on heredity and ethics essentially married to the consumption of beef was so spirited, Jason Black was compelled to also jump into the fray to balance the scales for USDA.
And once the steaks were served, diners were faced with yet a few more layers of experience they'd have to weigh.
Do we vote for the chef whom we think served the better piece of meat? Or do we choose the chef we think delivered on flavor? How much of my enjoyment of steak is derived from the pure pleasure of sinking my teeth into what I'm told is the best beef available on the market today, and how much of it is about my net impression from the way the meat has been prepared, seasoned and served? How much of my desision is dependent on the serving plates' brand identity? Fully knowing who cooked what, am I only voting for the chef from the restaurant I like better?
It was a crowd of engaged diners. Questions were raised, interaction with the chefs and the servers were plentiful, opinions were thrown not just across the tables but across all four corners of the dining room. By the end, the subtle approach employed by both teams to influence diners to vote one way or another, became more persuasive campaigns. Entire blocks of diners were voted as one, with a leader checking the ballots to ensure there were no backsliders in her team. A woman voted by making a crimson lipstick stain on the name of the chef thats served the steak she liked better.
Harlan Goldstein, Champion of last year's inaugural USC against Jason Black (then Executive Chef of Shore Hospitality), was on-hand to award the plaques. Announced as Runner-up, Chef Jack Carson of Restoration. Chef Aarik Persaud of The Butchers Club is proclaimed the new Champion.
As guests filed out of Restoration, Jason Black hinted at what the third edition of USC might look like.
"The first year was all about the contending chefs: Black vs Gold. This year, we ventured to level the playing field by making it all about the beef, aged the same way. Next year will be about the cow, itself, with meat coming from just one supplier..."
Restoration was a stellar event host. Two competing restaurant teams working under one cozy roof might have easily been a recipe for disaster, but the event proceed entirely without a hitch.
Proceeds from the Ultimate Steak Challenge 2: The Dry Aged Steak Challenge will help fund treatment for a chef with a degenerative muscle condition.
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