ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Local chefs are ready to battle it out in the kitchen again after taking a more than a yearlong hiatus due to the pandemic.
The friendly competition, known as 505 Food Fights, returns at 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 23. The event will be held at Rustico Italian Kitchen, located at 5200 Eubank NE. The kickoff event will differ from past years. The event will be a “Welcome Back” exhibition featuring three of Albuquerque’s top chefs.
“Since it’s been over a year since we’ve had a food fight, I thought that instead of diving right back into the bracket, we can do like a welcome back food fight,” said Chef Mike White, who runs the 505 Food Fights and owns Rustico. “So we’re getting some familiar faces involved. And instead of a head-to-head matchup, we’re gonna have three chefs compete.
“But in this instance, instead of making two meals for the judges, they’re going to make one family meal for the crowd. So that’s kind of what the welcome back feeling to it is that everyone’s going to get involved.”
Attendees will get to try and take a bite of each of the participating chefs’ family meals. Guests will then be able to vote for their favorite dish.
Chef Dominic Valenzuela, co-owner of Tako Ten restaurant; chef Marie Yniguez, owner of Slow Roasted Bocadillos and Smokin’ Fred’s ’46; and Hollow Spirits Distillery executive chef Tristin Rogers will participate.
Each is an acclaimed chef in their own right. Rogers was named 2020 Chef of the Year by the New Mexico Restaurant Association. Valenzuela received the same accolade in 2019. Yniguez has won and participated in several Food Network shows including “Chopped,” “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “The Great Food Truck Race.”
The exhibition will also feature a local musician providing entertainment and The Rolling Chef food truck in the Promenade shopping center parking lot. The food truck is operated by Chef Tony Saccoccia.
White has plans to showcase local food trucks for the next 505 Food Fights exhibition in July, and to bring back the competition brackets beginning in August. The competitions will rotate between Rustico, Hollow Spirits Distillery and a location in Santa Fe.
“We’re hoping in a couple months, where I’m working with Hollow Spirits, to gather the names because this season isn’t just chefs, it’s going to be a chef and a bartender versus a chef and a bartender,” White said.
Once the brackets start up, White plans to hold the events at an earlier time on Mondays rather than the current late night Wednesdays.
Each event is $15 per person and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to a local charity. The June 23 exhibition will benefit American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. To date, 505 Food Fights has worked with more than 20 charities.
White said he would like to work with the American Heart Association, New Mexico Autism Society, Barrett House shelter and S.A.F.E. House.
“I am in the process of looking for beneficiaries,” White said. “The goal is to have a different one every night or at least have each charity have two nights or something like that. In a bracket there’s 16 battles, so we want anywhere between eight and 15 charities involved for this bracket.”