Stateside’s George Sabatino was the victor in last night’s Hop Chef competition at World Cafe Live. Up for grabs in the battle were bragging rights, of course, and a chance at competing again in Hop Chef finals at Brewery Ommegang’s annual Belgium Comes to Cooperstown festival going down later this summer. The Belgian beer-makers organized the cook-off, which challenged chefs to come up with two dishes that either incorporated or was made to be paired with one of the brewery’s beers. Similar bouts have taken place in other cities, like Washington D.C. and Albany, NY. The competition was stiff, and the deluge of ravenous food and beer nerds that turned out for the event didn’t make things any easier for the competing chefs. “It’s crazy,” Top Chef star Jen Carroll, who served as one of the contest’s judges told Grub. “I just took a quick look around, and everyone’s so deep in the weeds.”
Sabatino’s winning dish was a smoked beef cheek with watermelon rind pickles and beer-boiled peanuts served as a lettuce wrap. And with it, he bested Le Virtu’s Joe Cicala, Ela’s Jason Cichonski, Rittenhouse Tavern’s Nick Elmi, Lacroix’s Jon Cichon, and South Philadelphia Taproom’s Scott Schroeder. The irony of his win is, he admittedly isn’t much of a beer nerd, and shies away from high abv. brews. The runner up was Nick Elmi, who brought a hamachi and sea urchin dish that was plated with wheatgrass, citrus and coriander. But a quick look around the room and where the crowds seemed to continually logjam proved Schroeder and Cicala were the most popular with attendees. Schroeder took the People’s Choice award for his line-caught bluefin tuna crudo with crispy pancetta and frozen Ommegang Belgian Pale Ale-soaked melon, and a hot roast beef sandwich.