For the first time ever in a Sunday Night Chef Fight, it was an amateur chef taking on a professional chef, as competitive cook and recipe contest winner challenged defending Inland Empire Chef Fight Champion Chef Miguel Jaimes of the Victoria Country Club in a sold-out Sunday Night Chef Fight from The Cooking Store in Riverside.
As champion, Miguel allowed his challenger first dibs on the kitchen, and Laureen dazzled the hungry audience with three dishes incorporating the base ingredients of shrimp, radish, and tortillas, and the mystery ingredient of yellow mustard. She plated and served her first dish almost immediately: a radish green soup garnished with a horseradish mustard drizzle. Then she prepared a stacked shrimp and chorizo enchilada served with a radish crema, and paired that with a roasted corn, black bean, and radish salad dressed with a lime-agave vinaigrette. With her experience as a two-time Pillsbury Bake-off finalist, on “Good Morning America”, and on the Food Network’s “Ultimate Recipe Showdown,” Laureen showed charisma and grace under pressure in front of the sold-out crowd and finished with plenty of time to spare.
As defending champion, Chef Miguel has already faced the heat of a Chef Fight once before and demonstrated his comfort level by producing six different dishes for the audience to try. He chose to represent as many different cultures as the ingredients would allow, from southeast Asian (a shrimp and rice noodle soup) to Chinese (Mu Shu shrimp on a traditional Chinese “tortilla”), from Tex-Mex (Jack Daniels BBQ grilled jumbo prawn tacos) to New England (shrimp pot pie with shrimp bisque served in a fried tortilla bowl), and from what can only be described as Mexican-African (giant wild Nigerian shrimp that resembled whole squid, served head-on in a taquito) to classic American with a twist (liquid nitrogen frozen chocolate ice cream topped with shrimp-infused caramel). His creations took him right up to the final seconds, but he got everything served in time.
In the end, the decidedly split audience rendered a split decision, awarding Laureen the Taste category but giving Miguel the overall victory with top scores in Creativity and Appearance.
Chef Jaimes moves on to his third and final Inland Empire Sunday Night Chef Fight on Sunday, January 16th against Chef Brein Clements of Riverside’s soon-to-be-opened The Salted Pig. If Miguel is triumphant for a third time, he will officially be retired and earn the inaugural spot in the Sunday Night Chef Fight Culinary Hall of Fame.