Sinema Chef Victorious in Nashville's "Knife Fight"

Photo Credit: Richard Jones

Photo Credit: Richard Jones

The annual Tennessee Flavors event was held on March 5 at the main campus of the Nashville State Community College. The food and drink tasting event invites restaurants and producers from all around Nashville to offer samples to lucky attendees and help raise money for the Nashville State Community College Foundation. Now in its eighth year, Tennessee Flavors assists the college’s efforts to “provide quality education, remove financial barriers, and empower students at Nashville State to achieve their dreams for a brighter future.”

In addition to the dozens of tasting stations, one of the highlights of the event that drew the biggest crowd was the big “Knife Fight,” sponsored by Springer Mountain Farms. Two chefs faced off in a fast-paced competition to create a dish using a well-stocked pantry and a list of mandatory secret ingredients which were revealed right before the chefs began their 30-minute cook time.

Participating this year were chef Kyle Patterson from Sinema and chef Nick Pellegrino of Mangia Nashville. No stranger to competition, these two talented cooks were confronted with some pretty obscure ingredients that had to appear somewhere in their presentation to the panel of judges. The easy one was a whole chicken from Springer Mountain, but after that they were compelled to incorporate an odd English mustard condiment and Napa cabbage. Because the event took place on Fat Tuesday, the organizers threw them a big curve ball by demanding that they somehow use King Cake in their recipe. The multi-colored sweet cake definitely was a head-scratcher for the chefs, and that’s before even considering that there is traditionally a little plastic doll of a baby inside.

Both chefs rose to the occasion with Pellegrino concocting a dish of crispy sauteed chicken breast served with his version of an Italian Caponata, subbing out the cabbage for the traditional eggplant. Patterson went with Asian flavors using the King Cake as a sweetening agent to counteract the spicy chiles that he used in the sauce for his take on Pad Kee Mao, the traditional Thai dish sometimes called Drunken Noodles. 

In the end, the judges awarded the prize of Knife Fight champion to Patterson in a close decision. Both chefs demonstrated incredible creativity and versatility in their efforts, and the assembled crowd was quite entertained by their competitive banter back and forth before and during the cook. Whoever competes next year will have a tough act to follow!

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Heather Sinyard