Food fight! Ths Sunday, a battle for the best holiday dish

for The Brooklyn Paper
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They’ve battled over brunch, chosen the best cheeses, and even tackled tacos. But cookoff pros Theo Peck and Nick Suarez are about to take on what might be their most ambitious Food Experiment yet: the holidays.

On Sunday, the foodie duo will bring 25 home chefs to the Bell House in Gowanus in the ultimate holiday cuisine smackdown. The two have been hosting their Food Experiments — themed competitive cook-offs for local home chefs since last June, so far tackling beer, chocolate, cheese, tacos, brunch, and Brooklyn roots. Yet even for these competition veterans, they know that there’s something about holiday food that makes it, well, personal.

“Holiday food is all about comfort,” says Suarez. “It reminds people of growing up and home, and that’s so important in the realm of good food.”

Participating chefs will be whipping up a variety of dishes, including a traditional green bean casserole and more ambitious “God Jul Goat Kjottkaker with Dilled Brunost Cream and Cloudberry Aquavit.”

“I look for dishes that have a story,” Suarez says. “What does this food mean to the chef?”

Audience members will join the impressive judging panel — Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appétit magazine; Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery; and Peter Hoffman of Savory and Back Forty restaurants — in choosing the best dish based on creativity, presentation, and, of course, taste. Yet since dishes will be judged on just one bite, Suarez reminds his chefs that seasoning is of the utmost importance.

“Winning cookoffs is 50 percent logistics and 50 percent proper seasoning and execution,” Suarez says. “We always say to chefs to create the perfect bite.”

Holiday Food Experiment at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643-6510], Dec. 5, 4-7 pm. Admission is $20 in advance (includes a whiskey tasting).

Updated 11:24 pm, November 29, 2010
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