Welcome to a brand, spanking new season of BTW Presented by Heineken! Finally, right? It’s been a minute but I can promise you it’s well worth the wait as we are coming in HOT with this first episode. Here’s why:
I am a huge fan of the show "Top Chef" on Bravo. HUGE. Like, I have watched every single season, some more than once, and often imagine what it would be like to sit at that judges table amongst the likes of Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi, debating the merits of acidity levels in a dish. (Yes, I am a nerd, thank you for asking.) So when it came to our attention that former Top Chef contestant, Justin Sutherland, was hired to be a culinary consultant at the brand new Allianz Field in Minnesota, this was a no-brainer. We would do our very own MLS version of Top Chef with Justin and a few willing, adventurous MNUFC players. BOOM.
Susannah Collins with Chef Justin Sutherland (left)
Here’s how it went down. We selected two teams to compete against each other in a Nacho quickfire competition at Allianz Field because, is there a better stadium food than Nachos?? I think not. Eric Miller selected Ethan Finlay as his sous chef while Ike Opara chose Dayne St. Clair. Justin, myself and Allianz Field executive chef Bill Van Stee would serve as judges. Thirty minutes on the clock to make the best darn nachos ever. GO.
Dayne St. Clair (left) and Eric Miller (right) in the kitchen
Watching these guys slice and dice was an absolute riot. Eric, who is a self-proclaimed foodie, actually brought in his very own homemade braised pork for his nachos that he prepared the night before as well as his very own recipe for avocado crema, which Ethan was tasked with creating. True story. These guys came to play. Team Ike, on the other hand, was a little more laid back in their approach, sticking with the basics and no real clear plan of attack. It was obvious Team Eric was the frontrunner in this scenario. Though I have to say, Ike’s knife skills were pretty darn impressive.
The banter in the kitchen was hilarious, elevating the competitiveness between these guys to ridiculous levels. Seriously, when it comes to trash talking in the kitchen, Ike is a king. But what struck me most was how much fun this group was having with each other. The brotherhood is strong in Minny and these fellas illustrate that beautifully. It was a treat to be privy to that dynamic.
When the thirty minutes were up, I triumphantly channeled my inner Padma and declared "Times up, utensils down!" Career highlight for me, btw. See what I did there?
The players presented their nachos
Now for the fun part: EATING NACHOS. Team Eric presented first and truth be told, it looked like a winning dish. Beautiful presentation, even distribution, AVOCADO CREMA FOR PETE’S SAKE!! With mouths watering, my fellow judges and I dove in. And while the nachos were certainly tasty, we all agreed that one component was missing: Heat. Next up, Team Ike and their "Nacho Lasagna" as Dayne quite cleverly named it. And between the layers of chips, cheese, beans and the all important HEAT, the verdict was unanimous. Team Ike took home MLS Top Chef honors and bragging rights to boot. Which they did. In abundance.
Time to taste the nachos
After an intense day in the kitchen, we put all competition aside, (Well, kind of. Eric took the loss pretty hard tbh, haha.) cracked open a few Heinekens and extolled on the loveliness of Allianz Field over beers and birthday cake (It just happened to be Dayne’s birthday and the BTW crew always comes prepared.) Justin and Bill spoke about the food they offer and how it’s a reflection of the city itself: diverse, eclectic, warm, inviting. Having experienced it firsthand I can say without hesitation, they are spot on. It’s a beautiful place to watch the beautiful game. And the food along with the guys on the field are pretty special too.
Cheers to Justin, Bill, Eric, Ethan, Ike, and Dayne. Oh and Top Chef. And of course, cheers to you! Thanks so much for watching. Feels good to be back.