Heavy hitters poised to face off in 505 Food Fights - Albuquerque Journal

Heavy hitters poised to face off in 505 Food Fights

Chef LN Tucson creates a dish during the first round of the 505 Food Fights event in November. The next first-round event is Monday, Feb. 7. Tuscon has advanced to the quarterfinals. (Courtesy of 505 Food Fights)

Three ingredients, one hour, creativity and perhaps a dash of brilliance are all the local chefs in the 505 Food Fights have to fend off their competition and take another step towards becoming a champ.

The next round of this friendly competition will take place Monday, Feb. 7, at Hollow Spirits. Two teams of a professional chef and bartender will prepare a meal and a cocktail that will be served to the judges. The judges score based on creativity, taste and presentation and will determine who moves on to the quarterfinals, which will begin in April.

The first round of competition has 20 teams, and started in September of 2021. Ten teams will advance but, ultimately, only three teams will battle in the final round Aug. 15.

For this season of 505 Food Fights, chefs are teaming up with a bartender to make a drink that complements their meal. (Courtesy of 505 Food Fights)

Organizer and chef Mike White, who owns High Point Grill and the Point at the Promenade, said this is one of the most anticipated rounds because it features some heavy hitters.

One team will feature Fork & Fig owner and executive chef Josh Kennon and world champion bartender Kate Gerwin, who opened the Happy Accidents bar in Nob Hill.

“She is definitely the most feared bartender in this competition,” White said.

They face Sean Staggs, who has worked as a chef at high-end restaurants around Albuquerque for many years.

“He is one of the most seasoned competitors of the Food Fights,” White said.

His bartending partner is Michael Berry, the mastermind behind the unique cocktails at Hollow Spirits.

Entry for spectators is $10 and all money will go toward a local charity. White said they have raised close to $25,000 some years. Charities that have benefited in the past are the American Heart Association, New Mexico Autism society, Barrett House shelter and S.A.F.E. House.

Moments before the competition, White unveils the three ingredients each team must use. He usually includes a protein, a dairy or produce, and then what he calls a curve ball.

A judge samples a dish made by Chef LN Tucson during a 505 Food Fights event in November. (Courtesy of 505 Food Fights)

“It could be anything,” he said. “One time I gave them a cake. They have minutes to come with an idea and then they have about an hour to create a dish.”

White took over the event four years ago and decided to make each competition season a different theme. The whirlwind speed of the event can be stressful for the competitors but White said it’s a way to test their skills.

“Competition cooking has been a huge fascination on television for years and years,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun and interesting for general public to see what professionals do in this situation. You get to have fun while also supporting a local charity.”

The event starts at 7 p.m. Hollow Spirits is located at 1324 First St. NW.

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