Dueling Knives in Pueblo brings Episode 3: Jedi vs. Padawan

Brues Alehouse in Pueblo was the latest venue to host Dueling Knives, this one titled Episode 3: Jedi vs. Padawan.  (See previous contests here.) The cook-off is presented by the Pikes Peak chapter of the American Culinary Foundation; this round featured Pueblo Community College executive chef Michael Degenhart and  Ben Bedard, culinary arts instructor at PCC.

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Chef Michael hard at work.
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Chef Ben a-like-a da spice.

The secret ingredients, which were revealed just as things kicked off, were cantaloupe, calabacitas and venison. Having attended the previous event at The Blue Star, where ingredients were sweet meats and chia seeds, I felt these weren’t as versatile or unusual. It didn’t compare as well to the creative, mind-blowing dishes from June. But both chefs did adhere to perhaps the most important rule of the night from Brues Alehouse executive chef Brian Blasnek, which was cooking the venison medium rare. And there was some lovely presentation throughout the evening.

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Straight out the gate was Chef Ben’s venison carparccio.
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A-plus for presentation and good flavors from Chef Michael.

The dish that stood out for me was Chef Ben’s stir fry with udon noodles: beautiful in its simplicity and all the elements were cooked to perfection.  Bedard also provided a well-received bonus course as his fourth entrée, distinguishing him as the clear, unanimous winner.

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Look with your eyes, judge with your mouth. It may not wow in terms of aesthetics but this Asian-inspired dish was the crowd pleaser of the night.
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This makes my mouth water just reliving these glorious bites of loin
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…and one more time because it’s a thing of beauty

Chef Michael also offered a little something extra to start off the festivities: jalapeño popcorn — a movie night favorite in my house we lovingly refer to this as “choke corn” — paired with an elderflower martini, providing a harmonious balance of sweet and spicy.

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Chef Michael had a good strategy starting the judges off with this cocktail and munchie.
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Chef Michael turned out a fantastic venison loin, but the grits and succotash together were a bit redundant.

I compared tasting notes with fellow judges Blasnek, Shannon Speaks of Synergy Wines and state Sen. Leroy Garcia whom all agreed that Chef Ben stood a little taller in this particular battle.

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It’s exciting to see the throngs of people who are coming out to support these events.  We’re allowing our local talent to  push the Pikes Peak regions culinary scene forward and highlighting the passion and range that our chefs have to offer.

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Ingredients were donated by Sysco, the venison from House of Smoke in Denver, and produce from Germiah, Milberger and DiTomaso Farms.

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Student sous chef prepping the not-so-secret cantaloupe and calabacita.

[Images: Ryan Roberts]