While the pastry chefs of Uchi and Triniti will be competing in the 4th Annual StarChefs.com International Pastry Competition, Ronnie Killen will be competing with a team of Houston chefs in the 1st Annual StarChefs.com SMOKE@ICC on September 28. Both of the competitions will take place in New York City.
Ten teams from around the nation will show off their barbecuing skills and be judged in four different categories: Regional American, New World, Asian and People's Choice. The grand prize is a trip to Korea, a MLR 150 competition-level smoker and the chance to compete at the World Barbecue Championship in Las Vegas.
Killen's team includes his chef de cuisine at Killen's Steakhouse, Teddy Lopez; Chef Mark Gabriel Medina of Soma Sushi; and Randy Rucker, consultant for the soon-to-come El Big Bad. The four will be the sole representatives of South Texas; Jason Dady Restaurant Group is representing San Antonio, and The Carillon team represents Austin. The additional teams are from New Jersey, New York, Louisiana, California, Vermont and Pennsylvania.
"I am going to win," Killen says boldly. "We are going to blow them away."
While Killen and his chef de cuisine are the only true "barbecue" chefs on his squad, he believes the variety of culinary talent will give the team a leg up on the rest of the competition.
This is the inaugural year of Smoke@ICC, and there have been a number of rule changes during the past several months, including some last-minute alterations that were made this week. The changes threw Killen's team, and presumably all the other competitors, for a loop. Not only have the types of meats each team will be required to use changed, but the amount of time they have to prepare and cook has changed as well -- and it hasn't made things easier.
"The amount of time we have to do it is limited -- only five hours and 15 minutes to do pork butt," Killen says. "It takes a while to cook."
During preparation, the team had originally decided to show off the authentic flavors of South Texas barbecue with a plate of beef or short ribs, and brisket with a consommé of shiitake mushrooms, beef flavor and soy sauce, all topped with bonito flakes.
Now that each team will be required to use leg of lamb, pork butt, brisket and quail, Killen says his squad is going to have to think more outside the box. He explains that tenderizing a piece of meat in the allotted amount of time will cause difficulties; in fact, pork butt, done right, should take 10 to 12 hours.
"First of all, I don't even like lamb. Texas is probably the least favored -- we don't like lamb," Killen says. "Give me a rack, not a leg. I can make it tender, but I don't even like the crap. I have a game plan of what I will do; stuff it, take it off the bone ... it takes time to make all of that."
StarChefs.com Managing Editor Will Blunt explains that teams will also be required to use Australian Wagyu brisket for the People's Choice Award.
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Blunt says one of the other challenge ingredients is a Korean red pepper paste, Sunchang Gochujang. Blunt says Chris Shepherd uses cartons of the stuff at Underbelly.
"That is a hot product among chefs for developing flavor outside of the box," Blunt says.
Killen and his team will definitely have to work their culinary magic now that they must forgo their original cooking plans, but that doesn't mean they are giving up.
"To be picked for the first one they have ever had, we are going to be setting the bar for years to come," Killen says. "Smoke is very popular now ... I hope to make Houston proud. I am not going there for second place. Hopefully we will be the first ever SMOKE@ICC champ."