Tag Archives: Nickel City Chef

Nickel City Chef Season 4: Tickets on Sale Friday

5 Jan

Feed Your Soul, a local organization headed by local foodie Christa Glennie Seychew, has now produced three seasons of “Nickel City Chef“, a local variant of the “Iron Chef” model. Local chefs battle a “Nickel City Chef” using a secret, locally sourced, ingredient. A panel of judges tastes and rates the food on taste, presentation, and use of the secret ingredient. (By way of full disclosure, Seychew is my food editor at the Buffalo Spree, she and FYS are clients of mine, and I have been honored to judge during all three seasons of Nickel City Chef.)

The purpose of the competition isn’t just to highlight the creativity and technical expertise of local chefs – some of whom are quite established, and others who are just up-and-coming – but also to promote the excellent farms and producers of high-quality food right here in western New York.

Although the audience at Nickel City Chef doesn’t get to taste the items presented for judging, each competition is catered by a well-regarded local restaurateur, and it’s fantastic to watch chefs hard at work – with expert color commentary from SeaBar chef/owner Mike Andrezejewski – and the suspense during the judging process is palpable.  The competitions take place at Artisan Kitchens & Baths on Amherst Street.

Tickets for the fourth season go on sale Friday. Following on the heels of Western New York’s hottest selling holiday release, Nickel City Chef: Buffalo’s Finest Chefs & Ingredients, Feed Your Soul anticipates tickets for all four shows in 2012 to sell out within 36 hours.

Taking place in the stunning loft showroom of Buffalo’s Artisan Kitchens & BathsSeason Four’s schedule of dates is listed below. Tickets for the 2012 season go on sale at noon Friday, January 6th. Tickets are $38 each and include catered gourmet snacks and access to a cash bar during the event. Children under 16 are not recommended to attend. 

Links to online ticketing will be available at NickelCityChef.com.

February 19th

Nickel City Chef Krista Van Wagner of Curly’s


Challenging Chef Frank Mercado of M&T’s Private Executive Dining Room

March 4th

Nickel City Chef Brian Mietus of Bacchus


Challenging Chef Dunbar Berdine of Black Rock Kitchen & Bar

March 25th

Nickel City Chef Adam Goetz of Sample


Challenging Chef Christopher Daigler of Encore

April 15th

Nickel City Chef JJ Richert of Torches


Challenging Chef Chris Dorsaneo of Lloyd

 Ticket Link: http://www.NickelCityChef.com

Nickel City Chef XI: TODAY (Sunday 6/6)

6 Jun

Nickel City Chef X was a few weeks ago, where Chef Dino DeBell of Coles, soon to be of Blue Monk Gastropub, challenged Nickel City Chef J.J. Richert of Torches. The secret ingredient was wine, and both chefs brought their A game:


The next Nickel City Chef battle will take place on Sunday, 6/6/2010  3:00 pm – 5:00 pm at Artisan Kitchens & Baths on Amherst Street in Buffalo, where Nickel City Chef Paul Jenkins of the highly-acclaimed Tempo is challenged by Chef Jim Guarino, the owner and Executive Chef of one of Buffalo’s most well-regarded restaurants, Shango Bistro & Wine Bar.

The series is hosted by WBFO’s Bert Gambini.  The event will be catered by Sample Restaurant – they catered the last one I judged, and their spread was absolutely incredible.  Also notable is the fact that there are now remote cameras and roaming cameramen enabling the audience to get real-time views of the chefs working in the kitchen – an innovation that has vastly improved the audience experience.

Tickets for this competition and the rest of the series can be purchased online by visiting www.NickelCityChef.com.  It’s a great way to celebrate local chefs, local food producers, and spend a Sunday afternoon.

Nickel City Chef X: Richert vs. DeBell

17 May

Yesterday I had the honor and pleasure of serving as one of three judges at Nickel City Chef X, joining chef and season one winner Kate Elliott from juniper, and musician/foodie Nelson Starr from True Blue Buffalo.

Nickel City Chef is a production of Feed Your Soul, which exists to promote the great local farms and foods throughout western New York. The show’s format is similar to Food Network’s Iron Chef.

Yesterday’s competitors were Nickel City Chef J.J. Richert from Torches vs. Dino DeBell currently of Cole’s, but soon to be the head chef at Blue Monk Bar – the Belgian style gastropub that’s currently under construction in the old Merlin’s location on Elmwood.

The secret ingredient, conveniently enough, was wine from Arrowhead Spring Vineyard in Niagara County. Given my experience with WNY wineries, it’s refreshingly shocking to have local wine that doesn’t include a fruit pie ingredient. The red and ice wines were excellent – the chardonnay was marginally less so, but still very drinkable.

Richert’s offerings were technically impressive, and delicious. The first course had braised veal cheeks over red wine-infused mashed potatoes on one side, and sea bass over beurre blanc & white wine risotto. Next we had a bison sausage with what can best be described as a sprig of octopus. The flavors were sophisticated and beautifully executed, and the entire thing was topped off with a white wine sorbet with caviar-like droplets of red wine drizzled on top. Richert did not disappoint – flavor, presentation, creativity, or technical execution were all excellent.

I was particularly impressed, however, with Dino DeBell, who is currently working at Cole’s (hint: try whatever the special is on a particular night). His first dish involved fried, breaded nuggets of monkfish, which was moist and delicious with a subtle crunch on the outside. This was served with a buttery, mayonnaisey potato salad made with white wine that was absolutely delicious. It was comfort food to the nth degree. The next dish was a sauteed rabbit involtini, with foie gras and ramp stuffing, served over a red wine risotto with morel mushrooms. The rabbit was regrettably chewy and tough, due to an issue with its sourcing, not with its cooking, but the stuffing was great, and the risotto was quite possibly the best I had ever had. It was creamy, savory with a light punch of red wine, and outstanding fresh mushrooms. The dessert was possibly even better – lemon pound cake with mascarpone featuring dark chocolate chunks, over fresh berries. Both red wine and ice wine were used to prepare this dish, if I remember correctly, and it was absolutely perfect.

When I’m judging NCC, part of the issue is that the audience doesn’t get to taste what I’m having – although yesterday Adam Goetz from Sample had a wonderful buffet spread out. So, although I mentioned the issue with the rabbit, I didn’t feel like I had to necessarily critique the execution of any of the dishes – doing what they do in 60 minutes is a feat unto itself and I respect it as that. What I try to do in my remarks is explain to the judge what I think worked in the dish, and to let the audience in on what I’m experiencing. The criticism then goes on the sheet in the end.

Although Richert won by 4 points, I really thought that DeBell did an absolutely phenomenal job, and it was almost as if there were two different competitions going on. While Richert won for technical execution and creativity, I thought DeBell’s food was simply better – and the judging backed me up on this. On taste, DeBell beat Richert by one point. DeBell’s food was all stuff I’d order on any menu (except maybe the rabbit – veal or chicken would have worked fine for that dish, and not been as temperamental).

But to a greater point – last week with Obama’s visit, a lot of attention was paid again to wings and hotties and other supposedly typical Buffalo foods. Don’t get me wrong – I love wings, but what NCC reinforces is that there are really great chefs here in town doing innovative things deliciously. I’ve been writing about food for Buffalo Spree since 2004 or so, and I’ve seen huge changes in the local scene – younger chefs taking more risks and hitting more than they whiff.

If you haven’t attended a Nickel City Chef event yet, there are a couple left this season. I get to judge the next one on June 6th between NCC Paul Jenkins from Tempo vs. Jim Guarino from Shango. There’s one more on June 27th. Get your tickets now for a great Sunday afternoon celebrating great Buffalo food, and watching masters practice their craft.

Nickel City Chef Sunday: Tickets Still Available

20 Mar

Nickel City Chef VII
Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Nickel City Chef Paul Jenkins of Tempo
Challenging Chef Keith Dulak of Trattoria Aroma in Buffalo
Featuring Judges Kristen Becker, Alan Bedenko and Nelson Starr

Buy Tickets for This Date: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99454

Nickel City Chef

3 Mar

Last week Nickel City Chef celebrated its first
show of its 2010 series. This competition featured a secret ingredient made by a homegrown, hometown food manufacturer: Sorrento.

Ricotta cheese took center stage as Nickel City Chef Adam Goetz of Sample Restaurant took on Challenging Chef Ross Warhol of the Chautauqua Institution’s Athenaeum Hotel. Both chefs have a penchant for molecular gastronomy techniques, and each of them delivered three spectacular dishes. Warhol’s warm Ricotta Plaque with shaved vegetable salad, chorizo vinaigrette and tomato marmalade cornet was a show stopper, but Goetz’s counter with a stunning and ambitious Ricotta Tasting really blew the judges away. They had a very difficult time choosing a winner, but in the end, Nickel City Chef Adam Goetz took home the trophy!


Nickel City Chef’s 2010 season has just begun, with a total of eight shows scheduled through the month of June. This Sunday you can catch Nickel City Chef JJ Richert of Torches versus Challenging Chef Carmelo
Raimondi of Carmelo’s in Lewiston.

This show is almost sold out, but you can get tickets to it or any of the other Nickel City events by clicking here.

Nickel City Cheftakes place in one of the
city’s best kept secrets – a fully restored turn-of-the-century warehouse on Buffalo’s West Side, the home of Artisan Kitchens & Baths.

Completely outfitted with two competition-worthy kitchens, this unique setting is the ideal location for this exciting hyper-local cooking competition. At each event, a Nickel City Chef and his or her challenger (each representing a locally-owned independent business) must complete three dishes in under an hour with each dish showcasing a secret ingredient. They employ classic and modern techniques in order to demonstrate their skills and personal cooking philosophy. All of Nickel City Chef’s secret ingredients always come from right here in Western New York!

A panel of professionals act as judges to determine which chef prepares the most technically perfect, creative and delicious cuisine. The audience enjoys catered snacks and delivers their own vote for their favorite chef of the day. With seating for nearly 200, Nickel City Chef events provide guests with an exciting, uniquely WNY cooking experience. With four cameras mounted in our pro kitchens and over a dozen flat screen monitors, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

Nickel City Chef is a Feed Your Soul.

Nickel City Chef Season 2: Tickets on Sale Today

10 Feb


Last year, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a judge at the very first Nickel City Chef, a local version of Iron Chef that highlights locally-sourced foods and local chefs.

The event, sponsored by Feed Your Soul, is not just a fun and intense competition where the chefs are subjected to judges’ instant opinion, but it really helps to reacquaint people with the great local chefs here in town who are, for the most part, owner-operators. It helps promote the small farms and artisanal food manufacturers who are popping up throughout WNY, and shows that we’ve got some brilliant and innovative chefs here.

Season Two of Nickel City Chef kicks off in just a couple of weeks, and tickets go on sale today. Last year’s competitions sold out within hours, so get your tickets fast.

Nickel City Chef V
Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Nickel City Chef Adam Goetz of Sample
Challenging Chef Ross Warhol of the Chautauqua Institution’s Athenaeum Hotel

Featuring Judges John Bourdage, Lisa Tucker and special guest, Kevin Purdy

Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99448


Nickel City Chef VI
Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Nickel City Chef JJ Richert of Torches
Challenging Chef Carmelo Raimondi of Carmelo’s in Lewiston

Featuring Judges Kristen Becker, John Bourdage and special guest, Chef Don Salamone

Tickets: – http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99452


Nickel City Chef VII
Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Nickel City Chef Paul Jenkins of Tempo
Challenging Chef Keith Dulak of Trattoria Aroma in Buffalo

Featuring Judges Kristen Becker, Alan Bedenko and Nelson Starr

Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99454


Nickel City Chef VIII
Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Nickel City Chef Krista VanWagner of Curly’s
Challenging Chef Andrew Nuernberger of The Roycroft in East Aurora

Featuring Judges John Bourdage, Kevin LoVullo and special guest, Ivy Knight

Tickets: – http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99457


Nickel City Chef IX
Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Nickel City Chef Adam Goetz of Sample
Challenging Chef Steve Gedra of Bistro Europa in Buffalo

Featuring Judges Nelson Starr, Lisa Tucker and special guest, Chef Brian Meitus

Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99505


Nickel City Chef X
Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Nickel City Chef JJ Richert of Torches
Challenging Chef Dino DeBell of Cole’s in Buffalo

Featuring Judges Alan Bedenko, Nelson Starr and special guest, Chef Kate Elliott

Tickets: – http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99506


Nickel City Chef XI
Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Nickel City Chef Paul Jenkins of Tempo
Challenging Chef Jim Guarino of Shango Bistro in Buffalo

Featuring Judges Alan Bedenko, Don Woods and TBA

Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99510

Nickel City Chef XII
Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Nickel City Chef Krista VanWagner of Curly’s
Challenging Chef Mark Sciortino of Marco’s in Buffalo

Featuring Judges Kristen Becker, Kevin LoVullo and special guest, Mary Luz Mejia

Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99513

Nickel City Chef: Season Two

18 Dec

Season Two of Nickel City Chef is set to begin early next year, and they’ve doubled the number of episodes to eight. (from four to you who went to “government school”). The program is currently seeking applications from Challenging Chefs and Corporate Sponsors.

Here’s a recap of last season:


For those who just can’t wait for Season Two to begin, tickets for Feed Your Soul’s Nickel City Cake Challenge go on sale in early January. Nickel City Cake Challenge showcases the talents of local cake artists by asking three of them to complete the most imaginative and technically perfect themed cake in just two hours–before a live audience. Taking place on Saturday, February 13th, Nickel City Cake Challenge will feature Zilly Rosen from Zillycakes, Susan Spider from Pumpernick n’ Pastry Shops and Tony Concialdi from Panaro’s. In addition to the live cake challenge, guests of all ages will enjoy sipping hot cocoa from our custom hot chocolate bar and nibbling on sweets from our confectionery station. Applications for the amateur portion of the event are still available. For details visit www.FeedYourSoulBuffalo.com.

Nickel City Chef Season 2: Call for Challengers

16 Nov

Applications for challengers for season 2 of Nickel City Chef are available here and due 12/23.

For the uninitiated, it’s an Iron Chef-style competition pitting local challenger chefs against the “Nickel City Chefs”, Adam Goetz (SAMPLE), Paul Jenkins (Tempo), JJ Richert (Torches), and Krista VanWagner (Curly’s).

Nickel City Chef takes place in one of the city’s best kept secrets–a fully restored turn-of-the-century warehouse on Buffalo’s West Side (home to Artisan Kitchens & Baths). Completely outfitted with two competition-worthy kitchens, this unique setting is the ideal location for guests to enjoy snacks and drinks while experiencing this one-of-a-kind cooking competition first hand.

The audience watches as the Nickel City Chefs and their challengers attempt to create the three best dishes in under an hour. They will employ classic and modern techniques in order to showcase their skills and the secret ingredient. All of Nickel City Chef’s secret ingredients come from right here in Western New York.

Guest judges (from as far as Toronto and Philadelphia) and local food professionals will determine which chef prepares the most technically perfect, creative and delicious cuisine. As a member of the audience, you’ll even have a say by voting for your favorite.

Where I Get to Taste Fine Cuisine for Fun

22 Jun

I was honored to be one of three judges at the inaugural Nickel City Chef, a local variant of the popular “Iron Chef” series on Food Network. Today’s competition pit Krista van Wagner from Curly’s against Brian Mietus from Bacchus. Curly’s is known for eclectic dishes, while Bacchus is more of an American bistro.

It was a sellout crowd, and Seabar’s Andrzejewski was not only the color commentator, but also catered the event for the spectators. Bert Gambini was the MC, who did a bang-up job introducing the players to the crowd, explaining the philosophy behind Nickel City Chef, and otherwise keeping things moving.

It being the first-ever episode of Nickel City Chef, it was inevitable that there would be a couple of issues with the production. Mics cutting out and feeding back are nothing – during the competition, no one could really see what was happening in the kitchens, and during the tasting, many people couldn’t see what we were tasting. That’s easily fixable with a couple of extra cameras and some long cables. The absolutely gorgeous “kitchen stadium” that Artisan Kitchen & Bath set up in its Amherst Street warehouse has flat-screen TVs throughout. Also, the first 15 minutes or so of the battle don’t lend themselves to much commentary from the hosts because that’s a critical period of time for the chefs, neither of which wanted to give much away to the other side at that point. Instead, the secret ingredient should be revealed, the chefs told to begin, and then the hosts can do the introductions.

Both chefs prepared food that was to die for, and they proved that they are as good as any chef anywhere. They took one hour to make something extraordinary to showcase a pretty pedestrian secret ingredient.

I am proud to have been a part of this not only because I’m tangentially involved in the local restaurant scene, or because I’m a big guy who loves to eat, but because Buffalo’s restaurants and chefs are often overlooked by too many local people. This is a great and fun experiment, and with a couple of production changes, should air on local television once per month. Seriously good show by everyone involved, and a special thanks to fellow judges comedian Kristen Becker and Spiel the Wine’s Kevin LoVullo.

(A longer version of this, which includes my detailed description of the dishes each judge served will appear in an upcoming issue of the Buffalo Spree. All of this year’s Nickel City Chefs are now sold out. I dare say this is something that lends itself especially to wintertime, as a great antidote to cabin fever).

Allez Cuisine!

10 Jun

Buffalo will soon have its own version of Iron Chef, where local chefs battle each other using a theme ingredient. I’m honored to have been selected as one of the three judges for the inaugural battle between Nickel City Chef Krista Van Wagner of Curly’s in Lackawanna vs. Challenger Chef Brian Mietus of Bacchus on Chippewa. WBFO’s Bert Gambini is the host for each battle, and the whole thing is being organized by former BRO food editor, Christa Glennie Seychew.

The public is invited to watch the festivities, and tickets are available starting June 12th at Artisan Kitchen & Bath at 200 Amherst Street, and also at Spoiled Rotten at 833 Elmwood. Tickets are $20, and a portion of the proceeds goes to the Food Bank of WNY. Artisan Kitchens is also where the battles will take place, the first being Sunday the 21st at 3:30 pm.

Check out this article by the Buffalo News’ Andrew Galarneau:

For $20, people get a drink and appetizers, sushi, dumplings and little Vietnamese sandwiches by SeaBar’s Mike Andrzejewski at the June date. There’s a cash bar, but no hard liquor.

Nobody’s getting paid, but part of the proceeds will go to the Food Bank of Western New York. “We’re trying to keep the price low enough that dishwashers can come,” Glennie Seychew said. “I’m not going to alienate my No. 1 crowd, the people who work in kitchens.”

The event is itself designed as an appetizer of sorts, said Glennie Seychew. It ends around 5:30 p. m., so those who find their appetite whetted might seek consolation in a nearby emporium of fine dining.

The event will be staged at Artisan Kitchens, a fine kitchen supplier on Amherst Street. Each chef will have plenty of room to work with an assistant in a fully outfitted $100,000 kitchen, Glennie Seychew said.

Come down and get your food battle on.