Despite an outstanding performance from both competing chefs, the audience sided with fine dining at the September 25th North County Sunday Night Chef Fight at the Standards of Excellence showroom in San Marcos. Eugenio Martignago, Defending Champion of North County and Corporate Executive Chef at Bistro West and West Steak & Seafood in Carlsbad, enjoyed a decisive victory with a category sweep over the team of chefs put together by Marko Pavlinovic, owner/operator of Mangia Mangia Mobile in San Diego.
In front of an excited crowd of 57 hungry foodies and food lovers, both Chef Martignago and Mr. Pavlinovic presented an array of dishes that utilized the three base ingredients of turkey, cabbage, and brown bread, as well as the mystery ingredient of pepperoni, which was revealed to the chefs only 48 hours before the Chef Fight.
As Defending Champion, Chef Martignago elected to cook second, so Mr. Pavlinovic stepped into the kitchen first with his elite team of chefs from his truck hand-picked for the competition. He presented three dishes that highlighted his zest for simple Italian cuisine and showcased the same cooking style and presentation he utilizes everyday in the Mangia Mangia Mobile, and finished just inside of the 30-minute time frame.
he began with an Italian lollipop: an Italian-style turkey meatball on a skewer dipped in tempura, fried, and served with a zesty marinara sauce. He then offered Arrosto Della Domenica, a turkey breast stuffed with brown bread and pepperoni, tomato confit, basil, pine nuts and sofrito, served with sautéed cabbage and pumpernickel bread. Pavlinovic’s final offering was a turkey Panini with arugula and tomatoes and topped with Mangia Mangia’s signature tomato-based dressing.
After the audience had tasted and judged Pavlinovic’s creations, Chef Martignago stepped into the kitchen, presenting four dishes that highlighted his love of organic and seasonal foods, and included fresh produce from the farm he cultivates as part of Bistro West. He and his team used every last second they had, finishing their plating with just seconds to spare.
After passing out Sambuca mimosa cocktails to the audience, Chef Martignago served an amuse bouche of Riesling-poached pear and avocado with butter-poached lobster, accompanied by a turkey consommé with turkey dumplings and pepperoni brown bread. His colorful main dish was pumpkin gnocchi in a sage brown butter turkey sausage with English green peas, cherry tomatoes, duck prosciutto, and squash blossoms. For his next course, Eugenio presented a confit of turkey leg topped with onion marmalade on butternut squash gratin, with malted brown bread crostini, pepperoni, and braised cabbage. Finally for dessert, he served a brown bread pudding with dried figs and cranberries, apples and calvados, topped with a Calvados crème Anglais and plated with a scoop of apple caramel gelato.
After the audience had the opportunity to taste and score both chefs’ dishes, it was time to reveal the results. Chef Martignago scored a clean sweep of all three judging categories, winning Creativity by scores of 328 to 210, triumphing in Appearance by scores of 324 to 198, and taking Taste 326 to 224.
Chef Martignago retains the North County Sunday Night Chef Fight trophy and the title of Champion Chef of North County. He will return to defend his title for the third and final time at the next North County Sunday Night Chef Fight on Sunday, January 15, 2012 at the Standards of Excellence showroom in San Marcos, against a Challenger Chef to be named shortly. Should Chef Martignago wins a third straight Chef Fight, he will be inducted into the Sunday Night Chef Fight Hall of Fame and retired from competition as a three-time Champion.