I am finally closing out the series on my brother and I’s yearly cook off. As I look back on the years prior, I notice our culinary skills improving significantly, our tradition gaining momentum and our kinship getting stronger. I think it is interesting to see how our eating and cooking habits change as we learn more about the food industry, the environmental impact of our eating and our new knowledge of techniques.
Now I don’t want to get philosophical, but writing about these competitions gave me the unique chance to see my personal improvement in the large picture. It’s something we don’t get to see in our day to day lives. I can only compare it to looking at an old picture of yourself and seeing how much you’ve evolved.
This tradition started as an innocent representation of the television show “Chopped“, and evolved into a cornerstone of the summer.
A short recap: Nick 2-0-1, Jojo 0-2-1.
The theme for the 2018 contest was the ultimate 5 course meal. We were limited to not using meat, because I was just converting to becoming the herbivore that I am today. This was a special edition of the competition because we got to cook for our grandparents and my uncle. Any time I can cook for my family, I treasure it.
The dreaded first course is like the first minutes of any sports game. The extremities are vibrating with anticipation as we chop our first onion.
Nick: I made a green pea, basil and lime hummus with crudités (raw veggies). This dish means a lot to me because my grandpa, who was one of the judges, and sort of a picky eater, demolished the plate of hummus. He loved it.
Jojo: He really brought the big guns this year. Joel made little shot glasses of mango tom yum soup. A vivacious herby coconut soup, with lemongrass and ginger that originates from Thailand. That was a huge hit with my Uncle who had visited the South East Asian country before.
I am not really sure who took this round because both dishes were considered winners in my book.
The second course did not disappoint either. After a first course like that one, we had to bring our A game once again.
Nick: Inspired by my limited knowledge of French cooking, I decided to make a Beet tartare, mimicking the classic French raw meat dish with beets instead. I shaved beautiful parmesan cheese on top and served with crostinis.
Jojo: Jojo made a showstopping brussel sprout dish with a mustard and maple glaze sauce.
Once again, there was no definite winner.
The third course brought the judges a real Christmas in August gift.
Nick: I made possibly my favorite dish that I unfortunately cannot eat anymore. Mussels with fennel and vermouth rosso. The absolute best broth in the history of me making broth.
Jojo: Jojo came back with a light zucchini salad that really brought the best out of a simple ingredient.
This was a toss up, ONCE AGAIN, but I think I won round 3 like Mike Tyson punch-out.
The Fourth course was the battle of the fresh pasta.
Nick: After spending some time in Italy previously, I decided to put my pasta knowledge to the test, that I picked up during a class. I made fresh pasta from scratch. Built this nice little dish in my head, I was going to make ravioli with a peach filling and brown butter sauce. The raviolis were pretty solid, a bit big. The sauce, I absolutely panicked at the last second and ruined it with cream.
Jojo: Jojo made fresh pasta as well, and with a little assistance. He made a sauce consisting of cumin, eggplant and other ingredients that I cannot recall. His dish had problems, but overall, cranked mine out of the park.
Here we were. Neck and Neck. Photo finish. Mano o Mano.
What do I decide to do for desert? I make a cocktail. A cocktail. Bonehead move. Idiot. Imbecile. Scallywag.
Needless to say, Jojo won with his deconstructed carrot cake, that stole the hearts of my family, giving him the title of favorite child and the winner of the 2018 Cook off.
Watch out for 2019.