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Culinary Clash Ends with an Emeril Lagasse Sophie's Choice

Donna Willey of Taqueria Canonita works on one of the food trucks.
Donna Willey of Taqueria Canonita works on one of the food trucks.

[Photos: Venetian]

Emeril Lagasse had a Sophie's Choice of a weekend at the Venetian and Palazzo when two of his chefs vied for the title in the second annual Culinary Clash Master Chef Competition on Friday and Saturday.

The competition brought 16 of the resort's chefs to compete with mystery baskets of ingredients on two food trucks parked on the Doge's Palace. Night one cut the chefs competing in half, with Tim Doolittle of Table 10, Levi Hill of Aquanox, Ronnie Rainwater of Delmonico, Stefan Peroutka of Palazzo, Jon Um of SushiSamba, Donna Willey of Taqueria Canonita, Joshua Bianchi of Venetian and Chaisith Crook of Tao left standing.

Judges including Venetian president and COO John Caparella, Venetian vice president of food and beverage Sebastien Silvestri, Honey Salt owner and more Elizabeth Blau, Emeril Lagasse and yours truly at Eater Vegas samples dishes made in 20 minutes throughout the night with Robin Leach hosting.

Actor Donal Logue from Sons of Anarchy even made a special appearance at the event on Friday night.

Night two pared down the competitors to two finalists vying for a trip to Venice, Italy, on the Venetian's dime. Doolittle and Rainwater from Lagasse's Table 10 and Delmonico respectively dueled in the final round. Lagasse ended up abstaining from voting in the final dish that included a massive King crab, black garlic, fava beans and Spanish chorizo. Both ended up making dishes with eggs and toast. Doolittle came out victorious in the battle.

In addition, a new element was added this year, the Masters of Mixology, hosted by master mixologist Dale Degroff. During the competition, two teams headed by celebrity mixologists Tony Abou-Ganim and Francesco Lafranconi led two teams of four bartenders. The teams competed in two rounds including a blind tasting and presentation of aperitivo, of which team Team Lafranconi came out on top on Friday. Abou-Ganim's team led a spirited comeback to win the competition.
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