Three teams compete at CSA Smackdown first round cooking competition, citywide finals to be held Oct. 20

by Michael Schoeck
CSA / Just Food / The Great CSA Smackdown / Young Chef’s Academy / Forest Hills CSA

Three teams of Forest Hills CSA members wowed a trio of judges at The Great CSA Smackdown’s first round event Tuesday night, September 23rd at the Young Chef’s Academy in Forest Hills.

Winning team Sumei and Maximilian Rodriguez received this year’s top honor from judges Karen Chesleigh of YCA, Bareburger manager Matt Lontos, and RCano Events chef Kert Eggers.

Sumei and Max’s winning dish featured crispy potato sticks with sweet red pepper and a hint of garlic-truffle salt. Next to that was a pickled Cioggia beet prepared in balsamic vinegar and lemongrass-infused olive oil. Sumei caramelized wedges of butternut squash with butter to round out the dish.

Describing her presentation technique, Sumei said “the dish was plated as a picture of flowers (beet & chopped tomato) growing under the sun (squash) with birds (zucchini) flying overhead.”

“Presentation and beauty add joy to our lives [while] visual interest goes a long way with kids and gets them excited about eating,” Sumei added.

Runner-up team Laura and Caleb Yoshida stunned the judges with their egg soufflé dish, presented immaculately and topped with a sprig of basil and tomato, partnered with a hearty Batavia lettuce salad and home fries-style potato side. Miguel and Nitza Ortega were also worthy competitors competed.

All are welcome to cheer on Sumei and Max at Just Food’s citywide final round of the Great CSA Smackdown on October 20 at Haven’s Kitchen in Chelsea, located at 109 W. 17th Street. This year’s roster of judges includes Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, who is vocally supportive of local farming and sustainable agriculture. The event marks the second time the Forest Hills CSA has participated in the three-year old competition.

The purpose of the event is to challenge members in the heat of the moment with that week’s CSA share vegetables coupled with only three flavoring ingredients and basic cooking ingredients like oil, butter and eggs. Contestants bring cooking supplies and they are provided a heat source such as an electric range stove.

Participants are allowed 10 minutes of preparation followed by 30 minutes to cook a dish for three judges, which score each team’s dish based on creativity, taste and presentation.


Contestant Nitza Ortega


Forest Hills CSA Smackdown judges Kert Eggers, Matt Lontos  and Karen Chesleigh


Winning team – Sumei and Maximilian Rodriguez


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