Travis Tveit, lead chef at Iron Goat Brewing Co., and his sous chef, Teague Tatsch, placed third at the All-American Chef Battle in Las Vegas last week in a three-day national competition that also included David Adlard, chef-owner of Candle in the Woods in Athol, and his sous chef, 17-year-old high school student Sarah Kitchings, also of Athol.
The first round of Chef Battle was hosted in 25 cities across the country in January 2019. Tveit was victorious in the Spokane contest, which meant a spot in All-American Chef Battle that began on Feb. 10 at Hofbrauhaus just east of the Las Vegas Strip, followed by a second day of competition and then the finals of the culinary battle. Adlard earned a spot in Las Vegas after garnering the people’s choice award in Chef Battle Spokane.
The All-American Chef Battle in Las Vegas featured 15 teams of two chefs. On the first day of competition, Tveit, who also is a drummer in the band Indian Goat, and Tatsch advanced to the final round after serving Korean fried chicken wontons, and they placed third with their street tacos to wrap up the competition.
“It was so fun – we had a great time. We had a lot of fun competing in Las Vegas,” Tveit said. “I didn’t know what to expect. We went off what we experienced with Chef Battle Spokane. We made sure we could be prepared as could be and covered our bases to have a fighting chance.”
For the first round, from which the top three teams advanced, the secret protein for the teams was chicken breast. Tveit explained why he chose to make Korean fried chicken wontons: “Wontons are a great way to have one bite of something, and there are so many things you can do with wontons.”
His team’s recipe included cilantro, ginger, garlic and onion for the chicken stuffing, and the wontons cooked quickly on a single burner. They created pickles out of carrots and red cabbage “for a really nice color contrast,” Tveit said, and the wontons folded like a boat and fit perfectly in the provided serving cups.
In the final round, the secret protein was ground turkey – “What a weird ingredient,” Tveit said – and Team Tveit had the same strategy for their street tacos. “There are hundreds of places to get tacos in Las Vegas, and we wandered into a place that makes the tiny street taco tortillas,” Tveit said. “They were amazing, and we bought 200 of those for the competition.”
There was a wrench in the finals for the top six, as they were presented with a mystery ingredient: Hefeweizen. Without breaking a sweat, Tveit opted to use it for pickles. How did he feel when his name was called for third place?
“I went down to win first place. To be honest, I wasn’t happy, and there is video showing my reaction,” Tveit said. “But it’s very cool to be in the company of the other chefs. Now that it’s sunk in, I’m very proud of my sous chef and how we did as a team.”
Iron Goat Brewing is located at 1302 W. Second Ave. in downtown Spokane. The taproom serves Iron Goat beers plus guest taps, as well as wine and hard ciders. The food menu features pizzas, sandwiches, soups and salads.
Candle in the Woods
Adlard, who reopened Candle in the Woods last year, chose ravioli for the first round, then a Monte Cristo for the finals. Both of the dishes are signature and popular items at Candle in the Woods, which rotates menu items every day along with the seasons.
“I thought it was a great experience for my team to be part of it and go to Las Vegas. It was great team bonding for our Candle in the Woods team,” Adlard said. While in town, the team members dined at Emeril’s in MGM Grand Las Vegas and La Cave in Wynn Las Vegas, as well as a café in Paris Las Vegas, and stopped at chef Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro’s Carlo’s Bake Shop in the Palazzo.
Adlard said he was told by organizers after the first day that their ravioli won the judges’ and people’s vote, so they had advanced to the finals. Their Monte Cristo, which Adlard described as “brilliant,” didn’t fare as well, as the team finished outside the top three.
“We wouldn’t do anything differently,” Adlard said. “An organizer told us we won the people’s vote again, but we didn’t make the top three, even though one judge awarded us the only perfect-100 score of the competition, because one judge wasn’t a fan. It was a nice consolation for us.
“Travis did a fantastic job and represented Spokane so well. We were honored to be there and did our dishes as well as we could have – and fans agreed.”
Kitchings, who also embroiders, makes jewelry and plays the guitar, said of her first All-American Chef Battle: “It was very fun. It was great getting to meet and talk with other chefs from around the country and learn new things from them. We re-created two of our classic dishes at the restaurant and showcased what we do at Candle in the Woods, and it went well.”
Kitchings, who turns 18 on April 27 and starts North Idaho College in the fall, currently plans to focus on business and possibly a language degree, as well as look into options with a bakery or food truck.
“I’ve been cooking pretty much as long as I can remember. I’ve always been in the kitchen helping my dad, mother and grandfather,” Kitchings said. And she’s keeping the competition result – fourth place – in stride. “It was great to see Travis place third. You always want to do well, but you’re glad to see other people recognized.”
Candle in the Woods is an award-winning, one-of-a-kind culinary experience located at 5751 Highway 54 in Athol.
“This was a fun opportunity and a fun competition and exciting format for chefs and guests,” Adlard summed up. “The fact that two teams from Spokane made the final top six in a national competition says something about our culinary scene.”
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