underground chef cartel

Meet Toronto's Underground Chef Cartel

The Underground Chef Cartel, a group whose mandate is to showcase up and coming culinary talent in Toronto, has been started by Joe Friday, Devan Rajkumar and Nikko Jacino. The trio has previously run a number of successful pop-ups together, and they will hold their first battle under the UCC banner this Monday at Teppan Kenta at 8pm.

As a world class culinary destination and a city obsessed with food culture, Toronto is ripe for a new, in-your-face food event. This is an opportunity to be surrounded by the yelling, the equipment kicking/throwing (or, less cool, the accidental dropping/spilling/burning), the careful dance, and the creative ebb and flow of a dish coming to life.

"The Underground Chef Cartel and the Underground Chef Battles began as a movement to showcase up and coming chefs in Toronto and to allow well known and established chefs the opportunity to defend and maintain their street credibility and reputation," Friday explains.

"Toronto is a mecca of inspiring and game changing restaurants and driving those restaurants are talented chefs, many of which fly under the radar. We wanted our first competitors to have relatively equal skill sets, not similar cuisines, but skill sets."

Competing in the inaugural match are two Edmontonians, Chef Deron Engbers (formerly of Rock Lobster) and Chef Eric Wood of the "re-opening soonish" Maple Leaf Tavern. A secret ingredient will be announced five minutes before the battle begins, and each chef will be required to produce two dishes within an hour.

Unapologetically judging the dishes will be Tom Bielecki (owner of Cafe Bar Pasta), Steve Gonzalez (chef and owner of Valdez Restaurant) and Abbey Sharp (food blogger and media personality). The fourth judge will be a randomly selected crowd member, so be sure to use words like "mouth feel" if you're the chosen one.*

In less than a week, the Underground Chef Cartel's Facebook page has garnered almost 500 likes, so it would appear that Toronto is hungry (ugh) and excited for live culinary entertainment such as this. Admission is $25 and gets you a drink ticket, some appetizers, and a dance party with Freeza Chin. No advanced tickets will be sold. Get there freaking early. If you don't make it in this time, not to worry, as they're aiming to host battles once every two weeks onwards.

*Just kidding.

Photo by Mikka Gia

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