If anything, last night’s Hop Chef competition proved that you can win friends with meat salad. That was the take-away winner Nick “Meat Man” Macri served with his victorious dish, which was composed of housemade coppa that was cured and bathed in Brewery Ommegang’s Hennipen ale and plated with Hennipen and ginger pickled chiles, grains of paradise bread crumbs, Hennepin “ballpark nuts” and orange and coriander sauce. Though Macri won by hitting all five of the pairing principles that the panel of judges used to evaluate each entry, the competition was fierce, and every dish was contender.
JG Domestic chef Yun Fuentes won the People’s Choice with his serrano ham-wrapped duck arepa with a Ommegang Rare Vos reduction. Other standouts from the evening included the the kimchee relish-topped foie gras hot dog, Cracker Jack and French’s Yellow Mustard powder crusted pretzel and “ode to Chickie’s & Pete’s” fries dusted with housemade Maryland seasoning from Fork’s Eli Kulp; the lamb barbacoa and Ommegang Witte consomme with pico de gallo, wild garbanzos and salsa verde served by La Calaca Feliz’s Lucio Palazzo; Belgian Pale Ale braised lamb neck from Alla Spina’s Mike Deganis; Three Philosophers-braised beef short rib slider from the Industry’s Pat Szoke.
Palazzo, whose numerous supporters — including Fork’s Kulp — donned white Team Lucio shirts emblazoned with he chef’s likeness, certainly brought the best branding effort. But Macri ultimately had the upper hand with Peter Serpico and his forthcoming restaurant’s general manager Richard Fell working alongside him. As the champion of the cook-off, Macri will face winners of similar Hop Chef showdowns in other cities at Brewery Ommegang’s Belgium Comes to Cooperstown festival in August.