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Friendly competition abounds at annual Iron Chef Victoria

By Lourdes Vazquez - LVazquez@vicad.com
Nov. 23, 2009 at 5:23 a.m.
Updated Nov. 25, 2009 at 5:25 a.m.

Iron Chef Victoria challenger  Burdge entered Quail Nachos with Chiltipin Glaze.

The aroma of friendly competition filled the Victoria Country Club on Friday for the third annual Iron Chef Victoria.

The challenger, Robby Burdge, and returning Iron Chef Robert Briggs competed for the title of Iron Chef Victoria.

The competitors were no strangers.

Last year, Burdge attended the event to support Briggs., Burdge joked that the tables had turned.

"Robert challenged me," Burdge said.

The competition was set, on the condition that the event would be a fundraiser for the charity of the winner's choice.

Briggs' charity would be the Billy T. Cattan Recovery Center; while Burdge was cooking for the Perpetual Help Home.

Briggs agreed and preparation began two months ago with the country club's executive chef Matthew Reid.

"They gave me their recipes ahead of time and we purchased the ingredients," Reid said.

When the gong was rung, the competition began.

The secret ingredient - chilies.

Briggs, who works as a part time chef, was assisted by sous chefs Tonja Patterson of Good to the Last Bite Catering and Jerra Lee.

Burdge said that he had no formal training, but enjoyed cooking with his father. His team consisted of John Welder and Blanche Charkalis, co-owner of Greek Bros. Restaurants.

Audience members were able to give their input in the appetizer competition, while Briggs and Burdge prepared their entrees.

"It's so people can have a part and allows for interaction," Reid said of the appetizer event.

They made chilled cucumber pepper soup; crab and avocado chili on Tostitos; and pickled pepper and cream cheese fillo cups.

Forms were placed on each table and the audience savored on which they enjoyed best.

The audience socialized and ate, while Burdge and Briggs prepared their dishes.

"I have never been here before, I think it's just awesome," said Maria Garcia, wife of judge Jamie Garcia.

Judges arrived Friday afternoon. The three-judge panel included executive chefs Jamie Garcia of Rockport, Kevin King of Sugar Land, and Elizabeth Bartee, owner of 5 Star Performance in Missouri City.

A pot of money was placed in front of the judges as a form bribery, Burdge joked.

He placed money in the pot and told audience members to donate for a good a cause.

As time ticked down and it was announced that only five minutes remained in the event, audience members began to crowd around to watch the judges' reactions to the food.

Burdge's first dish, quail nachos with chiltipin glaze, was well liked by Bartee.

"I think it's absolutely delicious," she said.

Although Garcia and King found it lacked warmth.

Judges all agreed they enjoyed Burdge's white chocolate mousse with jalapeño pistachios.

"You didn't even have to bribe me for this," said Garcia after he expressed some discontent on Burdge's second dish, cubanelle peppers.

Briggs presented his dishes. Judges critiqued his jalapeño and lime dish, but his dessert, empanada with Mexican hot chocolate, had judges wanting more.

"The empanada was absolutely wonderful," Bartee said.

During judging, the audience was able to sample some of the items.

"Whoever wins, it's going to be for a great cause," said Dale Jones, 49, of Victoria.

It was Jones' first time to attend the challenge, but said he was supporting both Briggs and Burdge, even though he works with Burdge.

Briggs won the appetizer competition, but the suspense came when it was time to announce the night's big winner.

By a score of 51 to 50, Burdge was named this year's Iron Chef.

A surprise for Burdge.

"I feel good. I'm a little hungry," said Burdge after his victory.

Guests were also able to take part in a buffet featuring the dishes after the competition.

Briggs was still satisfied with the results.

"I think we did all right, we had a very good time," Briggs said.

Plans for next year's Iron chef are already under way.

"He asked me to join his team next year," Briggs said.

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