On October 2nd, culinary creativity will shine at the Common Threads Cook-Off. Chicago’s top chefs & mixologists will create and serve their favorite dish from the garden, the pasture, the seed, the barn or the barrel, while guestsvote for their favorite in each category.
Dirk and Teresa (Terry) Fucik of Dirk’s Fish are one of the +30 chefs competing in thiscompetition, and discussed some of their thoughts around Common Threads, the event, and the competition.
Q: Why are you involved with the Common Threads Cook-Off?
A: Terry and Dirk love children, and have been involved with Common Threads in many aspects, including volunteering in the after-school program with the kids as guest chefs, participating in the World Festival Fundraiser, and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald house. Terry loves teaching and enjoys seeing kids so excited and eager to learn about healthy cooking and eating. She especially likes teaching kids about different cultures, (i.e. how to cook Senegalese Stew) and how food unites us as the human race. She can personally identify with the kids because she taught herself how to cook and started cooking for her family when she was 12. She came from humble beginnings, so she can truly identify with what the kids may need, and appreciates that the recipes are accessible and affordable. “Common Threads is doing it the right way.”
Q. Which category have you selected for this competition?
A: “From the Barn” using Farm-Raised sustainable and certified fish. There is a lot of public misconception around fish farms, and Dirk’s Fish likes to educate people that fish farms are ok, as long as they are farmed properly. It’s not possible to meet consumer demand for fish without farms, as our oceans and lakes are starting to become depleted of natural resources. Just like beef and chicken are farmed, fish can be farmed too. There are good and bad farms for fish, just as there are for other proteins. Dirk and Terry choose farms that are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which focuses on sustainable seafood.
Q: What is your strategy for competing in the Cook-Off?
A: People are so into burgers these days, and they like eating them with a fried egg and a slab of bacon on top, which can sound like a heart attack on a bun. Dirk’s Fish wants to represent the burger in a completely different way, where it’s extremely tasty, and flavorful, yet really healthy. When people hear the word “burger”, they are more willing to try different types of fish, so this competition will feature a fish slider.
You are invited to try Dirk and Terry’s fish slider and the culinary creations of +30 additional chefs & mixologists at The Common Threads Cook-Off at Revel Downtown on Thursday, October 2nd at 6:30pm. We wish Dirk and Terry the best of luck!
I’m happy to announce that tickets to the third annual Common Threads Cook-Off are now on sale! It is a fantastic event targeting Chicago’s young professional foodie elite, a fundraising competition of sorts showcasing the city’s finest food and mixology. Chefs create and serve their favorite cookout-themed dish either in a glass, on a bun, in a shell, or on a stick, and guests have the opportunity to try it all, vote on their favorites, and take part in the silent and live auctions.
As a Common Threads Associate Board member, my hope is that you’re inspired by Common Threads’ mission to educate underprivileged children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking. It has been such an important part my life and I would welcome the opportunity for you to see a little bit more of what we do.
The value for this event is amazing; the crowd is ideal, the cocktails are bottomless, and you’ll eat ’til your heart’s content courtesy of the most noteworthy restaurants in Chicago.
Last week, I was thrilled to win 1st place in the grilled cheese competition that I competed in (out of 12 teams), so in case you were wondering how to win a grilled cheese competition, here’s how:
1. Get a Good Partner – My friend asked me if I would be her partner for her friend’s grilled cheese competition and she said up-front that she wanted to win. I was on board with that – she proved to be a very good and competitive partner.
2. Do Your Research – We went to a grilled cheese food truck website, looked at the menu items and recreated a few of the sandwiches to see which one we liked best. We chose a sandwich that had pepper jack cheese, fire roasted salsa, Fritos (we renamed it “corn chip crumble” to be fancy), and a cilantro-lime sour cream. After tasting the sandwich, I suggested that we add some chipotle for some flavor and spice. Perfect. We also added a black bean soup shooter to go along with the Tex-Mex theme.
3. Dazzle them with Presentation – Anytime you watch Top Chef and other food shows, the story & presentation is key. Integrate as many of the elements together as possible. Because we had a Tex-Mex style sandwich, we enlisted some help from one of our copywriter friends that developed the name “Queso & Besos” (Cheese and Kisses) – it rhymes, it incorporates cheese, and it’s just plain cute. I used a piping bag to pipe out the cilantro-lime sour cream and added a sprig of cilantro as garnish. We served the sandwiches on trendy, rectangular white plates (the other contestants just used the plates that were provided), and we used square-shaped disposable shot glasses to serve the soup (Amazon.com is great for ordering these types of things, by the way). We also served Hershey’s Kisses as a “dessert” to go along with the “Besos” part of our name. It also didn’t hurt that we had custom-made Queso & Besos t-shirts. When we came into the room with those shirts on, everyone knew that we meant business. There was also a team song requirement, so we chose the very popular and upbeat Harlem Shake song which starts out with a spanish phrase.
4. Prepare in Advance – We made sure to prep everything in advance – we made the cilantro-lime sour cream and put it in the piping bag so it was ready to go. The black bean soup was cooked and blended and placed in a crock pot for the event. The Fritos were pre-crushed and placed in a plastic bag. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of cooking time at the actual event will help to relieve stress & help you to focus on cooking an amazing sandwich.
If you follow these tips, you will have an excellent chance at winning a grilled cheese competition (or other cooking competitions), should you compete in one.
This party was top-notch. The hosts like to throw fabulous theme parties and went to an events company and rented burners, extra tables for counter space, lights, and pillars. I felt like I was on Food Network in kitchen stadium. They had microphones, an emcee and a videographer. There were also 10 judges selected at random (I happened to be a judge as well), and all of the sandwiches were judged on taste, presentation and creativity on a scale of 1-5. As the winners, we were awarded with a trophy and bragging rights until next year, where we will defend our championship title.
Below is the video that captures the evening – it was a great party and I had a wonderful time. Enjoy!