Although the Health Department is trying to Californicate our city with letter grade bullshit, this is still New York, home of chefs like Kenny Shopsin, who combines pancakes with mac ‘n’ cheese without batting an eye. That tradition is alive and well thanks to Nick Suarez and Theo Peck, creators of The Food Experiments.
Peck and Suarez met competing against one another in amateur cooking competitions. From The Chili Takedown to The Fondue Takedown, The Pork Off to The Chowder Slam, Theo and Nick have taken home the top prizes at every amateur cooking competition on the circuit. “It was always either him or I winning,” Suarez said during The Brooklyn Roots Experiment, which took place last Sunday in Cobble Hill. Eventually Peck reached out to his competitor to call a truce and, after sharing a gallon of beer, an idea was born: The Brooklyn Beer Experiment, a beer-themed amateur cook-off. The Food Experiments have since continued, each time with a different theme, so far including cheese, chocolate, tacos and brunch. “We wanted to take the local cook-offs and bring them to the next level,” Suarez said.
The contestants were lined up with each chef vying for one of three prizes: The Judges’ Prize, The Nick and Theo Prize and The Audience Prize. My plate was eventually piled high with bite-sized, Brooklyn-centric concoctions. Each dish was either thematically related to Brooklyn, like the Coney Island Pork Rillette Corn Dog, or made from ingredients grown in the borough.
When WD-50 head chef and leading molecular gastronomist, Wylie Dufrense, walked in with an apron-wearing entourage, a buzz shot through the crowd, palpably excited to have their food sampled by one of New York’s best.
“I think when it’s available, using food that’s local is a great idea,” Dufrense told me before filling his plate.
“It’s all about execution, a well-seasoned dish and presentation. It’s the full picture. The winner always just makes sense, it kind of hits you over the head. It’s the perfect bite,” Suarez explained.
Jill Strominger’s Beet Bread Pudding was a tasty, subtle homage to the Polish community in Greenpoint, but perhaps most apropos was Andrey Ayrapetov’s Salmon Pastrami Cheesecake. “I just took everything Brooklyn and put it in the blender,” Ayrapetov said. And Roopa K-Marcello’s Brooklyn Buzz Brownout Cupcake was like a chocolate cherry bomb with a savory twist that came from a sprinkling of Gorilla coffee, and a shot of organic milk as a chaser. For me, Marcello’s cupcake would have had it in the bag if it weren’t for a newcomer to the competition, John Husby, who’d just moved to Brooklyn from Milan. His dish, a tribute to Peter Luger Steakhouse, featured tender beef brisket with steak sauce, horseradish motews and creamed green market greens, all on a potato chip. Of all the bites that I bit, this was only one that demanded a fourth helping. In my busily digesting gut, I knew that Husby was going win. “Brooklyn has a very up-and-coming food scene,” said Husby, who eventually won the big prize, explaining what brought him here. Indeed, in Brooklyn, tastiness is next to godliness.