It was all about the pastrami.
Competitive cooking legend Nick Suarez bested his bitter rival and best friend Theo Peck in a vicious, cutthroat and delicious battle of wills at the annual Taste of Williamsburg food fair on Sunday, earning 114 votes for his pastrami chili to only 67 votes for Peck’s deep-fried corned-beef hash.
Peck, who runs eating and dining events under the name “The Food Experiments” with Suarez, was initially gracious in defeat.
“Nick brought his ‘A game,’ ” he said. “Nick is a fierce competitor.”
Later, however, Peck blamed his deep fryer, which gave out midway through the four-hour contest.
“It couldn’t keep up,” he said. “It was like [noted Cleveland Cavaliers underachiever] Antawn Jamison. I kept cursing at it.”
Suarez and Peck had assembled their dishes at 10:30 am on N. 11th Street in preparation for the all-day food fest, but Peck initially fell behind because his corned beef balls required more assembly time than Suarez’s chili, which was already prepared.
By 1 pm, Suarez had built a big lead over Peck, and never looked back. Peck blamed his deep fryer, yes, but also himself for letting his ego get in the way. Days earlier, of course, he had already been polishing his trophy.
“Does Nick Suarez have bragging rights now?” Peck asked. “He does. Trying to hate someone who is that nice, it’s so difficult.”
Suarez, of course, credited his meat rather than his method.
“Chili is a crowd-pleaser,” he said. “It’s comfort food, and you gotta’ please the crowd.”
Thousands of Taste of Williamsburg fans also enjoyed single-serving treats from some of the best restaurants in the neighborhood, including Dumont, Traif, Wombat, Pies ’n’ Thighs, Dressler, Fatty ’Cue, Teddy’s, Fornino, Lokal, Taco Chulo and a dozen others.
The festival was a fundraiser for the Northside Town Hall, a community center, which supporters hope to build inside the shuttered Engine Co. 212 firehouse on Wythe Avenue.
— with Aaron Short and Ben Kochman