Sunday Night at the Chef Fights

When the desert’s top chefs battle in Rancho Mirage, foodies win the bounty



PHOTOGRAPHY BY JON EDWARDS

Popular desert chefs duke it out in an exciting culinary competition that debuted in January. The inaugural Sunday Night Chef Fights event at Standards of Excellence Kitchen and Bath Showroom in Rancho Mirage pitted Andrew Copley, owner and executive chef of Copley’s on Palm Canyon, against Matt Smith, executive chef of 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro in Palm Desert.

The brainchild of Chris Kern, creator and founder of Forgotten Grapes, Sunday Night Chef Fights features a fun series of live chef competitions here and elsewhere in Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Orange counties. As master of ceremonies, he interacts with the chefs as they work, adding color commentary and impromptu interviews with questions from the audience.

“[Chefs Copley and Smith] did an outstanding job; and we enjoyed all of the food and the multiple wines provided by host Chris Kern, who brought professionalism and humor to the event,” says John Glenn, a Copley’s customer since the restaurant’s inception who attended the first chef fight. “We were so delighted that we have invited 14 friends to join us in the first row at the April 10 event.”

The fights test the chefs’ creativity and ability to cook against the clock and to present tasty, beautiful creations for an audience of  food lovers and even a few critics. One week before the fight date, the two chefs meet to draw three mandatory ingredients — one protein/meat, one vegetable, and one grain/starch, plus a mystery ingredient they must include in their presentation as they are video-taped for www.sundaynightcheffights.com.

Each chef receives $350 to buy the ingredients and one week to plan and prep ingredients for the fight. They may prepare a single dish or multiple dishes, as long as all base ingredients are represented; but they must prepare enough of each dish to feed approximately 60 attendees. On the night of the event, each chef and a sous chef of his or her choosing have only 30 minutes to cook, finish, and plate their dishes while Kern’s play-by-play reveals the chefs’ style and technique.

Each bout includes an undercard, Vini Vidi Vici, a blind testing of three wines. Audience jurors receive 2-ounce pourings and learn a little about each wine as the night progresses, but not the varietal or producer until the results are tallied for the chefs. Jurors may purchase their favorite wine at the venue to take home.

Copley, who won the first-round trophy in a split decision, will defend his title on April 10 against challenger Aaron Kiefer of East Meets West Catering. A winning chef must triumph three consecutive fights to retain the trophy and gain the title of Top Chef in the Coachella Valley.

If you’re a food lover, burgeoning or experienced gourmet, or looking for fun on a Sunday night, this event serves up great food, chefs’ tips you cantry at home, and culinary rivalry. For information or reservations, visit www.sundaynightcheffights.com and www.forgottengrapes.com

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