|Crab cakes don't get fresher than this.|
"I'm using mama's crab cake recipe," Markert said. "The mothers always do the cooking on Father's Day, right."
Markert was facing stiff competition. Also presenting their crab cake creations for tasting were:
- Mike Abt of Le Diplomate
- Matt Adler of Osteria Morini
- Sarah Biglan of Ris
- Tony Chittum of Iron Gate
- Chris Clime of Passion Fish
- Haidar Karoum of Doi Moi and
- Johnny Spero of Minibar
There would be 2 awards given at the competition, held at The Source by Wolfgang Puck. A group of judges would select the overall top crab cake. But all the attendees could vote for their favorite and that chef would win the People's Choice Award.
So for 2 hours, more than 100 crab aficionados, who had paid $75 each to benefit educational programs at the American Institute of Wine and Food, moved from long table to table, enjoying the samples that the chefs were producing in front of their eyes. There was no limit to how many small crab cakes you could consume, so you were able to enjoy multiple taste tests at each station if you wanted.
But, of course, man (or woman) cannot live on crab alone. You could also feast on clam chowder, Gordy's pickles, fresh vegetables, and bread. And then there were the oysters. Nothing serves as a better palette cleanser between crab bites than chilled oysters. And, like the crab cakes, they were also unlimited.
|The Devine shucking siblings|
So while most of the focus was rightly on the 8 chefs, I decided to hone in on the brother-sister team of Timothy and Bernadette Devine of Barren Island Oysters, based in Hooper's Island Md, who were shucking oyster after oyster at a table in the front of the restaurant.
Even if you weren't an oyster fan, you had to get a chuckle from their sign which proudly proclaimed "Ugly oysters [but] they've got great personalities."
Bernadette credited her brother with teaching her the art of shucking. This was actually an anniversary for the team. Their 1st public event had been at the 8th annual DC Crab Competition. Bernadette recalled her 1st heavy shucking day. "I shucked 300 oysters. I couldn't move my wrist the next day," she said. Bernadette said Timothy had taught her his method. "It's all in the wrist," she said. "You go in at an angle and you wiggle."
For his part, Tim said he came to his oyster operations indirectly. He, Bernadette, and their 5 other siblings grew up on the Chesapeake, taking advantage of everything you could do on the water. Eventually, after several years as a self-taught photographer in New York City, he returned to Maryland and began oystering 3 years ago.
Obviously, since I was in the presence of an oyster expert, I had to ask Tim what was the proper way to eat an oyster. "It's personal taste, but the 1st oyster, you have to eat naked. And by that I mean the oyster should be naked, not you," he said with a wide grin.
Finally, all the eating was over and it was time for The Source's executive chef and emcee Scott Drewno to announce the winners. The judges ruled that Haidar Karum had created the best crab cakes of the day.
However, Drewno announced that there would be crab cake history with the People's Choice Award. For the 1st time, 2 chefs had tied. First, he announced Sarah Biglan of Ris. Then he called Markert's name.
"We thought about having a crab off," Drewno said. "But we decided on a tie. The winner gets a case of wine. We're going to give 6 bottles to each."
After thanking all the participants for helping young developing chefs, Drewno had one final message.
"Everything today was all about local," he said. "Please keep supporting local."