Toronto has become a battleground – in the kitchen, that is. Culinary collaborations and events have been popping up around the city for the last few years, but never has Toronto seen a downright knife-fight-like cooking competition… until now. The Underground Chef Cartel (UCC), launched this past February, is making waves, having already sold out their first two events and with expectations to do the same with the next round. Garnering almost 1,700 likes on Facebook in less than two months, clearly the upcoming battle is going to be a hot ticket item.
The idea for the UCC started with three very active chefs in the Toronto culinary scene: Joe Friday, executive chef at Via Vai; Nikko Jacino, executive chef of BSH Canada; and Devan Rajkumar, brand ambassador at The Food Dudes as well as a regular contributor on Cityline, Viva Magazine, and the Dairy Farmers of Canada. With such a winning idea, this young group of chefs is sure to make a dent in our fast-growing, foodie-driven city.
The idea behind Underground Chef Cartel is simple: two chefs, one basket of secret ingredients (one protein, one produce, and one surprise item meant to throw the chefs off), 45 minutes, and three judges that are not giving anyone a break. As a bonus for the competing chefs, one audience member is randomly chosen to join the judge’s table. The event is fun, rowdy, and the chefs talk enough trash to make it engaging for the 180+ guests in attendance.
The boys tell us that the battle was established to support the Toronto chef community as well as local markets, smaller companies, and to help promote the city’s amazing restaurants.
“We created the Underground Chef Cartel with hopes to build a chef community so young chefs can be recognized and show their skills against other talented chefs, or even more established chefs,” says Joe Friday to Vv Magazine. “It’s also a great way for the participating restaurants to showcase themselves.”
While the UCC evening does not allow spectators to try the battling dishes due to logistics, the host restaurants do offer a special menu influenced by the items in the secret ingredient basket, with prices lower than their regular menu.
The next battle is on April 20 and will be between Chef Hayden Johnston (Richmond Station) and Chef Alex Molitz (Geraldine) at Origin (107 King Street East). To raise the stakes, they will also be critiqued by Masterchef Canada judge and hosting chef-owner of Origin, Claudio Aprile. Also at the judge’s table will be owner of Café Bar Pasta, Tom Bielecki, and Vv Magazine’s founder and resident restaurant connoisseur, Nicki Laborie.
While they are building up the event in Toronto, the boys are not shying away from going into other cities and welcoming out-of-town chefs as well. Future plans include a competition involving current Masterchef Canada contestant Sabrina Poirier, who resides in Montreal.
A competition that sounds far from boring, the Underground Chef Cartel has become quite a hot ticket in town so we recommend buying your tickets early!
Will you be attending the next Underground Chef Cartel? Which chef would you like to see compete next? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or follow us at @ViewTheVibe.