Chef Challenge Review from Land & Food Systems Professor 'Doctor D'

Just three weeks ago, the UBC community gathered together at the south end of Main Mall for craft brews, local farm food, live music and friends at the 4th annual UBC Chef Challenge. Under a beautiful blue sunny sky (not that smoke-filled haze from the last week!), this UTown UBC event saw a lineup of chefs compete to create the perfect bites to pair with craft beer from Driftwood Brewery. The Chefs were from:

  • Koerner’s Pub
  • Land & Food System’s Aggies (Student/Faculty Chefs)
  • BierCraft
  • Open Kitchen (Orchard Commons)
  • AMS Conferences and Catering

At the end of the evening, the Land & Food System’s Aggies took home the “People's Choice” trophy and the AMS Conferences and Catering took home the “Judges' Choice” trophy.

Now it was 3 weeks ago, but imagine the ambience in this grass and greenery UBC amphitheatre nestled between academia and homes/parks  – a bright blue sky, quite warm, but with a gentle Pacific breeze to cool any juvenile tendency to overheat. And lovely music balanced somewhere between “let’s dance” and “just relax” from “the band” ?-  gently slowing any lingering academic debate and moving it to contemplation of the enticing food aromas emanating from a stash of chefs’ teams and their compact kitchens.  And while the food was cooking… there were just enough of various refreshing and diverse beers from the Driftwood Brewery to cool the hot sun and help in the contemplation of the many tasty, gourmet mini-dishes coming fast. Here is a quick review – in the order that this happy taster chewed & slurped through.

Koerner’s Pub: Korean pork ribs with garlic chicken crackling, miso buttered corn, mango and jicama salad and pickled watermelon rind 

Now this is my idea of outdoor eating!  Koerner’s Korean BBQ pork ribs were still warm and melt in your mouth tender. A colourful stripe of BBQ sauce stirred in a subtle pepper/tomato heat that built gradually… yum! The White Bark” Belgian-style wheat ale seemed a little tame here (missing the floral citrus aromas that its known for) although it was refreshing on this sunny warm afternoon/evening.  Perhaps the beer was a tad over-shadowed by the pork-perfect, juicy, sweet mango & mildly crunchy sweet/starchy jicama.  The tidbit of rendered garlic chicken crackling… was crunchy… an interesting play on the texture of the ribs, but the miso-buttered corn – now that added some nice bliss points to the ribs.  More please!

BierCraft: Beer Braised Short Rib Jerkey, Watercress and Blueberry Salad with salted caramel and balsamic vinaigrette

The Cry Me a River Gose seemed an interesting and tasty beer to work with in Biercraft’s pairing. It’s somewhat mildly “sour & salty” taste contrasted nicely with the sweetness of Biercraft’s beer-braised short rib jerky ribs and the sweetness of blueberries, but didn’t do much for the watercress which perhaps was needing more of the accompanying “salted caramel and balsamic vinaigrette.” A fun dish and somehow I felt healthier after that water cress -blueberry salad!

Land & Food Systems Aggies (Student/Faculty Chefs): Pulled Oyster Mushroom in flour tortilla served with BBQ sauce, Vegan Coleslaw and roasted corn

The Arcus Pilsner was a mildly complex beer if a bit funky – and it pitched it’s slightly higher hoppyness into the ring of diverse flavours in this tasty “Las Carnitas Del Rey “ taco. Perhaps I squeezed on too much lime juice, but the lime, cilantro, tangy sauce, roasted corn and cabbage/slaw mélange seemed to dominate the Arcus Pilsner in this pairing. The hoppyness did manage to provide the last word; however, and managed to both cleanse the palate and set up for the next bite of taco bliss.  The crowd of food & beer lovers were indeed blissed out by this extraordinary pairing - raved about it and gave it the “People’s Choice” award. More please!

Open Kitchen (Orchard Commons): Drunken Sturgen: Fat Tug IPA cured Sunshine Coast Sturgeon lemon grass, kaffir lime, local stone fruit, summer celebration greens & house made cracker

The Fat Tug delivered floral/fruity (tropical/nectarine) aromas along with some good hoppyness – drawing a line in the sand to contrast vividly with the salty sturgeon, tangy lemongrass, aromatic greens (arugula) and sweet nectarine/apricot.  If your palate needed some grounding – the down-home seeds-galore cracker was there to bring you back to square one… A little sip of the Fat Tug and off you go again… what fun!

AMS Conferences and Catering: Edible Garden - An unnatural adventure of nature: Textures of parsnip, rye, carrots and beets 

Naughty Hildebrandt ESB was especially friendly to the AMS Conferences & Catering’s unnatural adventure of nature with its re-constructed textures of parsnip, carrots and beets sitting blatantly on thin melt-in-your-mouth wafer. Perhaps it was her floral-citrus flavours that raised the sweetness of parsnip and carrot (with lemon/apple ginger? What was that green blob?), but cloaked the earthy beet, micro-greens and crunchy fried rye crumbs in her bitter finish.  Naughty Hildebrandt ESB and this edible garden stole the show for the judges who gave the “Best of Show” award to the chefs of AMS Conferences and Catering – no doubt for the surprises, ingenuity and pairing in their presentation!

Same time next year? I’ll be there!

“Doctor D”