Culinary Fight Club: The Battle Ramen in San Diego, California

On October 23, 2016, Culinary Fight Club San Diego had its 2016 Season Finale for three chefs to make their best take on ramen. Contestants had 60 minutes to create the Best Ramen putting their “Best Bowl” forward.

Saiko Sake and Sushi Bar lent its dining room for the event.

Chef Jake McPeck, from Mess Hall Canteen, along with his sous chef.

Chef Hop Phan, from Dos Chinos, along with his sous chef.

Chef Bev Lazo, from Coolinary Trends, along with her sous chef.

The pantry was stocked with vegetables, eggs, sauces, and seasonings. The chefs had 45 seconds to shop in the pantry. Each chef was also allowed to bring three secret ingredients of their choice to the event.

Ready, set, cook! The 60-minute clock started as the chefs started preparing their dishes. Chef Hop started slicing up one of his secret ingredients, prosciutto.

Chef Jake started slicing up one his secret ingredients, pork belly.

The pork belly went into a quick marinade before hitting the grill.

Chef Hop had his game face on while shaving off the fibrous skin of an asparagus.

Chef Jake’s pork belly hits the grill.

Chef Jake also sautéed mushrooms, onions, and herbs. I wish you could get the aroma off this!

Chef Hop brought out the “bro-torch” to melt and brulée his mozzarella cheese. Yes, I said mozzarella cheese on ramen!

Chef Bev presented her version of ramen in the form of a traditional Filipino chicken soup (mami) with egg noodles, chicken, lots of garlic, fish sauce, crispy chicken skin, mushroom, and egg. She definitely infused the Asian influence into her dish with garlic and fish sauce. I thought it was a little too salty and noodles were undercooked. This would be great as a “hangover” soup as the salty flavor along with the chicken would help settle the stomach. EAT score: 8/9/8

Chef Hop presented his version of ramen using an Italian flare with spaghetti, melted mozzarella, soy sauce cured yolk, and summer garden vegetables. This is very unusual in food judging where I am able to witness the dishes being prepared and knowing the style of the chef that prepared it. Chef Hop cooks like my dad; getting inspired by food combinations that you would not normally think of. Hop really went outside of the box and brought the idea of “ramen” to a new level. Even though he had problems with his broth, it still was rich, flavorful, and just fresh. Spaghetti was an interesting play on the “noodles” and held up well. I love the soy sauce cured yolk!!! I hope Hop adds this to his menu! EAT score: 8/10/9

Chef Jake presented a more traditional ramen dish using pork broth, fresh ramen noodles, pork belly (marinated in dandelion greens, garlic, shallots, green onions, rice wine vinegar, and miso), charred mix of mushrooms, dandelion greens, and onions, pickled mix of onions, bean sprouts, jalapenos, and soft-boiled egg. I thought that Jake’s broth was amazing! You could definitely taste that it simmered for 24 hours with the richness of the pork fat and bones. But I thought the noodles were a little undercooked. I like my ramen over al dente. I think it is my Hawaiian upbringing, but I love Italian pasta al dente. The pork belly was very flavorful, but a bit overly charred for my taste, adding an unwanted bitter flavor. The soft-boiled egg was perfectly prepared. EAT score: 9/9/8

The judges panel included: Chelsea Madren (aka OC Food Diva) and Chef Anthony Pascale (owner/chef of Saiko Sake and Sushi Bar).

And the winner is… Chef Jake McPeck. He won the Culinary Fight Club trophy and a Golden Ticket to compete at the 2017 World Food Championships in Orange Beach, AL. Chef Hop Phan came in as the runner-up and won a Culinary Fight Club cleaver.

Great finale battle for 2016! Can’t wait to see what we have ahead in 2017! Stay tuned!

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