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Austin Way: 6 Fun Insider Things We Learned at the Citywide 86'd Finale

There was only one winner at Monday night's chef competition Citywide 86'd, but we learned a few fun insider things about Austin's culinary world, too....

On Monday night, we witnessed the nail-biting finale of CityWide 86’d, a competition inspired by Food Network’s Chopped that began with 16 Austin chefs and culminated with four battling it out for the win. Oscar Yip (Olive & June), Kevin Cannon (Barley Swine), Claire Helbig (Eden East), and Joel Garza (St. Philip Pizza Parlor + Bakeshop) created dishes made from pre-determined secret ingredients. Ultimately, Garza took home the grand prize, including a travel grant and the chance to stage with chef Brett Cooper at the award-winning Aster in San Francisco. Here are six things we learned throughout the evening.

1. Step One: Attack the Bird

In the first round, competitors were confronted with squab, the culinary equivalent of a common street pigeon. When asked about immediate inspiration for his dish, Garza had three words: “attack the bird.” Knowing this protein would be the key component for their dishes, finalists began butchering immediately to break the meat down as quickly as possible.

2. You’ll Always Remember the Ingredient That Took You Down

Trace, the W Austin hotel's restaurant, served up a tasting of tumeric-cured king salmon with earthy spring peas and a perfectly creamy and tart créme fraîche. The story goes that one of Trace’s cooks competed in a past 86’d, and, for this year’s tasting, the team decided to highlight the forgotten ingredient that ultimately caused his elimination. Hence, the reason for tumeric.

3. Papalo Will Take You On a One-Way Ticket To Burp City

Potent papalo is an herb used commonly in Mexican cooking—it’s somewhere between a strong cilantro and, as judge Aaron Franklin so poignantly described it, “bicycle inner tube.” When asked about the papalo salsa verde in his entree round, Garza told the judges to “be careful—in an hour, you will all be burping papalo.” We checked in with Franklin and Andrew Wiseheart later in the evening and they confirmed this prediction.

4. The Next Trending Protein? Crickets

Barley Swine served up a pupusa topped with pickled red onions and... crickets. A rapidly growing nutrition trend, crickets are high in protein and beloved for their crunchy bite. Bradley Nicholson, sous chef at Barley Swine, assured us that this cricket topping was reminiscent of a sunflower seed.

5. A Few of Their Favorite Things

Our favorite question to ask is: What should I eat and drink right now? When it comes to pizza, Yip is all about the pepperoni pie at Home Slice. And Cannon touted Dolce Neve as the best ice cream. Many evenings, you’ll find Franklin at Contigo with his favorite cocktail of the moment, The Bee Keeper. In fact, Franklin was quick to say that Contigo is the best restaurant in town.

6. Advice For Next Year’s Competitors

All four finalists left the battle with sage advice for future 86’d competitors. Each gave some semblance of the advice “cook what you know”—the most concise example was Cannon’s emphatic “do you.”

Read the original Austin Way article here.