Andrew Holleran / photo editor
Public smoking was a must at Skully’s Music-Diner Sunday as 17 amateur chefs competed in The Columbus Smoke Experiment.
With rock ‘n’ roll music playing in the background, tables topped with chaffing dishes and platters of food lined the perimeter of a small arena while the chefs used their culinary creativity to prepare and serve the delicacies.
Customers strolled past the tables, many drinking a complimentary beer and sampling the entries before they voted on their favorite. No two similar dishes were next to each other and desserts concluded the ensemble.
The first in line was participant Mathematical Pork with “Pulled Pork Will Be My Constant.” Chef Justin Hemminger offered a serving of cherry smoked pulled pork on top of coleslaw with pineapple. He won second place by vote of the judges and audience.
Leonard Michaels and his wife Susan, of Columbus, attended the event as well.
“This is a very good event,” Leonard Michaels. “I really like to see the young people getting involved in the community.”
Team Funtjarvis won the overall competition with “CarnitasFuntjarvis.” Chef Joey Funtjar saw the competition on Columbus Underground’s website less than a week before.
“When I saw the smoke theme I thought it would be fun to use my smoker to par smoke the pork cuts before braising them in the sponsor’s Brooklyn Brown Ale, and then adding my own spices like ancho chili powder,” Funtjar said.
Funtjar, a Coldwell Banker realtor, was awarded $150, Anolon Gourmet and Le Creuset cookware supplied by sponsors, and will next head to Brooklyn with his assistant to compete with 13 other winners from across the U.S. and one from Stockholm in the national championship on Dec. 16. The theme of the championship is “Best Bite” and will not touch on one specific food genre.
“This is our first competition ever,” said Jenny Jarvis, a 2004 Ohio State alumna, Funtjar’s wife and assistant for the cook-off. “We will represent Ohio well.”
This is the fourth year The Food Experiment has been held and the second year of its national tour. Columbus was one of 15 cities chosen to participate in the 2012 competition’s circuit of themed cook-offs, sponsored by the Brooklyn Brewery. The tour’s next scheduled stop is in Atlanta for a chicken-themed competition Sept. 23.
Theo Peck, co-founder and organizer of The Food Experiments National Tour, said smoke can mean many things to many people. That theme was chosen for Columbus because people associate July with outdoor grills.
“Smoke can mean an ice cream, smoke can mean heat, smoke can mean a barbecue grill,” Peck said. “Our goal is to make an event where the chefs have a lot of freedom to choose and decide what they would like to do.”
Ben Hudson, marketing director at Brooklyn Brewery, said they try to find laid back but progressive venues to host the competition.
“The reason it works is that … it gives people a sense that they might be doing something possibly a little adventurous,” he said.