Enjoy This In The Kitchen Guest Article By Miami Food Pug, Who Got Ready For South Beach Seafood Week’s Chef Showdown With Executive Chef Jim Pastor Of Rusty Pelican
Where will you be on Friday, October 19? There’s only one right answer: South Beach Seafood Week’s VIP Chef Showdown! From 7 p.m to 11 p.m., 14 of Miami’s top chefs will go head to head on stage in seven different battles to showcase their seafood skills. Their goal: to impress the judges — that includes you!
Not only will you get to try dishes from all the chefs, but you’ll also get to enjoy an open bar all night long. This event will sell out, so get your tickets while you can (and use promo code PUG to save 20%).
In this year’s Battle Tuna, reigning champ Jim Pastor (Rusty Pelican) will take on Raul A. Del Pozo (Lightkeepers) in a turf war of sorts; both chefs have restaurants in Key Biscayne. We sat down with Chef Pastor to talk about tuna and how he’s going to top last year’s winning performance.
How Did You First Get Involved with Chef Showdown?
Chef Jim Pastor: We have a good relationship with one of the major sponsors. [South Beach Seafood Festival Founder] Valerie Roy visited us, and we started talking. They’re like, “We’d love to have you. You have a big seafood footprint in Miami.“ The rest is history.
Last year, you made your Chef Showdown debut and beat Toro Toro for the Battle Tuna crown. Now that you’re a seasoned vet and a returning champ, how are you preparing differently from last year where you went in kind of blind?
JP: Actually, preparation-wise I’m a very easy-going person. We make the dish a couple times and know what we want, so that’s it. There are a few challenges adapting to a new kitchen, though. Cooking competitions are always what you can do beforehand. You always want to keep things simple because 15 minutes goes by in the blink of any eye. Fortunately here at Rusty Pelican, we do volume so we understand what needs to be done to get the product out under that time constraint.
What last year in front of all those people feel like?
JP: Well being up there, I was a little nervous. You have a camera in front of you watching you cook, and you’re expected to talk.
Typically, most kitchens are silent, especially when you’re busy. Despite the nervousness, being a part of the whole experience and going through it with my sous chef was great; we had a good plan laid out. The first time you’re there and to win it, it’s just super cool.
In the past, have you had experiences cooking in front of a crowd that size?
JP: I haven’t been in front of a crowd that big. But doing some of the television promos, you know you’re going to be seen by a lot of people. So even though the crowd is not there live, you still get those butterflies and nerves.
But we’re definitely more prepared this year. Having last year’s South Beach Seafood Week and the Chef Showdown under our belts, as well as cooking for crowds at events like the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, prepare you.
Refresh our memories: What was it that you cooked last year?
JP: Last year, we did a take on steak. We did a lemon au poivre with pink peppercorn crusted tuna and then we did dauphinoise potatoes and some mushroom duxelle. We treated it like a steak. Tuna is super versatile and it’s just about its natural flavors. We wanted to add a few things to have that riff on a filet mignon with tuna.
Without revealing too much, how are you approaching this year’s Chef Showdown battle dish? Do you build on last year’s or create something new?
JP: I’m going to create something new for this year. I think I want to go a little lighter. I’ve been having fun with smoking things recently. We’re going to have a smoke element to it.
Last question: If you had some fighting words for your competitor, what would they be?
JP: Be ready.
VIP CHEF Showdown at South Beach Seafood Week
Are you ready? Get to try Chef Pastor’s tuna creation and more at the South Beach Seafood Festival’s VIP Chef Showdown. Buy your tickets here before it sells out (and use promo code PUG to save 20%).