If you don't already have your tickets, it's too late. The upcoming dinner at McCrady's Restaurant, featuring our own culinary mastermind Sean Brock and Top Chef runner-up and gastromolecular guru Richard Blais, will undoubtedly be one of the high points of this year's culinary calendar — and the waiting list already numbers in the double digits.
Great minds think alike, and Brock and Blais are remarkably similar in their recent culinary efforts. After making a splash with several cutting-edge restaurants in Atlanta and riding Top Chef to fame, Blais branched out to headline a new Atlanta restaurant, a farm-to-table concept aimed at the middle class budget and appropriately named Home. And while McCrady's will never be mistaken for a meat and three, Brock similarly found a new emphasis last year, leasing a farm on Wadmalaw Island to produce organic products for his restaurant. His servers and chefs tend the fields, gaining a newfound respect for the ingredients and the labor required to produce them.
But despite all the talk about heirloom vegetables and connecting the farm to the table (McCrady's hauls truckloads of kitchen scraps every week to their farm's compost pile), you have to believe that this meeting will be anything but an amiable get-together amongst friendly chefs. That's not to say that Brock and Blais aren't friendly, but both have culinary blogs and keep up with each other's work; both are experts in the now not-so-new molecular gastronomy that turns ordinary kitchens into Willy Wonka-like culinary playgrounds, and both are intensely competitive. I smell a showdown.
What will be exciting to see is just how far off the edge the two will take the lucky few who have scored a golden ticket to Sunday's event. The homegrown goodness will surely loom large, but both of these guys' hearts beat fastest at the bottom of a vat of liquid nitrogen. I predict a no-holds-barred, mano a mano display of one-up-manship and pure creative genius, and perhaps some of the best molecular gastronomy seen this side of the Costa Brava. I want to finally see someone make helium foam that floats above the plate like an edible blimp.
Blais has already come to town and toured the McCrady's farm, just to see what he will have to work with Sunday night, and dare we say, snoop around a bit to see what Brock has cooking in the kitchen.
One can only imagine the magic being prepared behind the kitchen curtain, the exceptional treats that will spring from Brock's new charcuterie program (which has quickly become the best in the city), and the cutting-edge technique that the globe-trotting Blais will bring to town. I recently stopped by to sample the latest tasting menu and an anonymous McCrady's server whispered in the corner, "I'm not going to say who I think is the better chef, but I know who will win. He's going to bring it!"
Let the battle begin.