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Calling All Amateur Chefs! Compete in the Houston Beer Experiment on March 4

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Do your friends rave about your cooking? Are you convinced you have an award-winning dish in your arsenal of recipes? Do people--other than your mom--constantly tell you to become a professional chef? Here is your chance to prove you've got what it takes.

Enter to compete in the Houston Beer Experiment on March 4 at Fitzgerald's, and have your dish judged by local food rock stars Chris Shepherd (Chef, Underbelly), Adam Dorris (Chef, Stella Sola), and Jenny Wang (Producer, Southbound Foods). Your food will be served to the crowd along with the judges, and the winner will be flown to Brooklyn to compete in the National Food Experiments Championships on December 16. (Long underwear not included.) The 16-city competition kicks off in Houston and, in keeping with its Brooklyn Brewery sponsorship, the theme for the March 4 event is beer. This is the chance your beer sauce/broth/glaze/soup has been waiting for.

We sat down to chat with Food Experiments co-founder Theo Peck about his concept and why he thinks Houston is a great destination for his ever-expanding competition.

2011 marked the Food Experiment's first national tour, when it traveled to five cities searching for the most talented amateur chef. This year the tour has expanded, and Houston will kick it off. If you're interested in competing, Theo suggests signing up early. "We take everyone first-come, first-served. We've had people on waiting lists get on after a cancellation. I encourage people to sign up before that Friday (March 2). This is a new city, but we do tend to fill our slots, so get in there early."

The inspiration for The Food Experiments came from Theo and his former cooking rival, Nick Suarez, and was the natural evolution of their love of food and a stubborn competitive streak. Theo explains: "What we tried to develop is an amateur cooking competition where we let people feel as free as they want to within a certain theme. We really enjoy what we do, and we really enjoy getting out there; we really tried to develop a community of food-loving people who love to take it to another level."

The winner of the Houston Beer Experiment will receive a five-course tasting and charcuterie class with Adam Dorris; six pints of Chef Signature Gelato from Trentino Gelato; gift certificates from TexasFood.com; a selection of bakeware, cookware, and knives; a Case of Chameleon Cold Brew Coffee, and a shot at the National Title via that free trip to Brooklyn in December, which includes hotel and good eats.

"We'll treat you to all sorts of good food. Last year we ate a whole roast pig, and the amount of beer you get to drink is unbelievable," Theo promises. "We don't just drop you off in the city and walk away--we take care of you. Culinary glory awaits the winner! These are the ultimate bragging rights. And we have a six-foot, pig-adorned trophy that is the Stanley Cup of competitive-cooking trophies."

Getting top-name judges is as much about giving the contestants a thrill and a challenge as it is about bringing visibility to their event. Theo explained that choosing a judging panel is definitely about getting a great palate and well-known local talent, but it's also about reaching out to the greater food community in each city.

"When we first started doing this, we really wanted it to be more exciting. We wanted to show our food to the top names in the industry. A lot of the top chefs from New York have done it, and it's so rewarding to see the amateur chefs present their dishes to professionals, and people with a real knowledge of cooking. Our competitors want to put themselves out there for this challenge; the bigger the name, the better the palate, the bigger the challenge for the amateur chef. We don't want the panel just to be chefs; we want chefs, writers, and part of the community--that's where Jenny Wang comes in."

Are you interested in competing in the Houston Beer Experiment? Visit the National Food Experiments website for event information. See what co-founders Theo Peck and Nick Suarez have to say in this 2011 National Championship video.

Sign up to compete in the Houston Beer Experiment or purchase tickets to attend online.

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