We’ve written extensively about Matt Timms, the Don King of hipster cook-offs, but only yesterday did we experience one of his productions from the inside, as a judge. First, a bit of news: We’re told Timms has been selected by Chow to be part of the “Chow 13”— a list of thirteen people changing the culinary landscape (others are said to include Michelle Obama, Dogfish Head Ales, and of course Stumptown). For his latest event at Highline Ballroom, he got the American Lamb Board to provide fifteen pounds of lamb for each of the twenty contestants. Their creations included lamb tacos (three different varieties), banh mi, shepherd’s pie, roti, tagine, and one of our favorites, a beer-braised lamb and bean salad.
The audience was over a hundred ticket-holders strong. Their favorite, for the $100 People’s Choice award: An extremely spicy x’ian lamb (topped with pickled jalapeños from Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint). Creators Jeff Allen and Diella Koberstein (the latter a culinary-school grad who works at Food & Wine) told us it was inspired by the fried lamb at Spicy & Tasty in Flushing. The judges (who also included Josh Ozersky of the Feedbag and George Motz of “A Hamburger America”) picked that as their No. 3. Our second favorite was Kate Bryant’s pulled lamb shank served on a pear slice (a perfect melding of sweet and savory), and the winner of $50 was Aaron “Always Eating” Ginsberg’s flavorful barbacoa-style lamb taco. It consisted of lamb shoulder rubbed in chipotle, guajillo, and ancho chilies; then roasted for ten hours with Negra Modelo, celery, carrots, onions, oregano, and thyme; then shredded and combined with the pan juices and (the secret weapon) lamb butter. That, along with a three-chili salsa and a flour tortilla from a tortilleria in Staten Island, made for one hell of a taco.
Next, Timms revisits the chili takedown and after that, a cookie takedown for the holidays. Dude is serious about turning this into a living, and he might just — apparently the cook-offs have taken him as far as Nashville, and the lamb takedown wasn’t even his only one this weekend (he also did some sort of promotional chocolate and chili event). Only in America!
Update: Metromix has photos from the event.