Monday, March 20, the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Culinary Federation hosted their fifth episode of Dueling Knives at Seeds Community Cafe. The competition between two local chefs unveils secret ingredients to create three courses in under an hour, much like the popular Food Network show, Chopped.

Chef Eric Brenner, from downtown Italian bistro, Red Gravy and sous chef, Rocio Neyra Prado, at The Broadmoor’s Ristorante del Lago, gave us a peak at their strengths in the kitchen. Prado ultimately took home the trophy which claims another win for the Springs institution.

Colorado-based sponsors donate the hush-hush ingredients. So chefs had the opportunity to work with opah belly from Seattle Fish Company, lamb bacon from Superior Farms, and boneless short ribs from Calicrate Beef.  Food Maven was responsible for supplying the root vegetables and arugula.

We were asked to judge beside The Gazette and former competitor/chef, Brent Beavers, from AspenPointe Cafe.

“It’s an honor to be asked to judge or compete,” says Beavers. “I like judging to see and taste what other amazing chefs come up with. You can see their food philosophy on the plate and I am impressed with the level and growth of our local scene.”

Prado’s first dish to arrive was a slightly seared opah belly and halibut ceviche. A mellow spice level made it approachable with great tang from the citrus. A lovely presentation and straightforward execution that really let the opah shine.

Brenner gave his answer, an Italian paella with saffron risotto and sausage. The opah was slightly under seasoned, but with a generous cut and satiating mouthfeel, it was hard to put down. The idea was innovative but the saffron took the focus away from the mild fish.

Course number two by Prado showcases the lamb bacon beautifully. A ramen-esque take with alkaline noodles, diced pieces of the bacon in a savory broth and a perfectly poached egg on top.

Brenner’s short ribs carpaccio in a creme anglaise with fennel, citrus and olive slaw alongside a goat cheese cake, was a pleasant surprise. There was significant balance throughout the dish. The tart saltiness from the salad coupled with savory beef and creamy bites of chèvre inside the mini bundt. This was some pretty magical cake.

A large clear plate with a cup sized indentation was the vessel for Prado’s third creation. A beef short rib tapenade with roasted eggplant topped with honey. The sweetness gave the vegetables a chutney-like consistency. Although the beef was a little well-done it maintained flavor. It yielded a lot of variation in a conservative portion size, with something different to appreciate in each bite.

Brenner’s final dish was a very accessible take on brunch, but came off as oversimplified. A butternut squash and Brussels sprouts hash, with hunks of lamb bacon and a fried egg. The vegetables were the brightest part of the dish and the plating was indicative that it was a rush to finish.

Prado brought her victory home with a bonus, fourth entree. Calamari ravioli with creme fraiche and lamb bacon. The pasta was al dente, a contrast to the delicate filling, but very complimentary to the consistently of the squid. This was our choice for best in show.

When can we eat this again?

Gradient layering and flawless aesthetics gave Prado a distinct edge in this throw down. The tallied scores confirm another Broadmoor success at Dueling Knives.

Prado enjoys a special moment with the coveted knife.

Matt Richardson, Vice President, of the ACF chapter and executive chef at Cheyenne Mountain Country Club, had some words to share with the audience and gave mention to the ACF’s annual fundraiser next month.

The Culinary Passport takes place on Saturday, April 29, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Julie Penrose Hall inside St. Paul’s Church. Tickets are available for $45 and a portion of the proceeds will go towards the Seeds Community Cafe’s culinary arts training program.

“We have one of the best lineups of chefs I’ve seen,” says Richardson. “Each chef is assigned a country and picks a dish. People have really loved this kind of event. Bristol beer is there along with many wine vendors, so nobody leaves thirsty or hungry.”