Downtown Memphis Chefs Compete Saturday in International Battledish

Six chefs in downtown Memphis will join an international cook-off called Battledish Saturday, competing in entrees and cocktail categories with 60 other chefs around the world.

Local foodies can sample dishes and cast a vote for favorites during the Battledish competition from 2 to 6 p.m. Participants will receive menus and maps to participating restaurants when they check-in at Jerry Lee Lewis Café and Honky Tonk on Beale Street.

The event’s impressive lineup of chefs includes Daniel Cathren of Automatic Slim's cooking pan-seared sesame encrusted tuna with spiced rice and wakame; Sam Miller of Tamp & Tap cooking autumn Napoleon of horseradish brioche French toast with roasted butternut squash puree, quinoa and heirloom tomato relish; Michael Patrick of Rizzo's Diner cooking grit and grind of duck confit and goat cheese wrapped in grits, rolled in Panko, and served over sautéed spinach; Chef David Johnson of Belle Diner cooking braised short rib with grit cake and sautéed Brussels sprouts; Kaia Brewer of Lunchbox Eats cooking short rib chili; and Andrew Armstrong of Twelve Bar cooking Flammkuchen, a thin crust pizza fried in butter and topped with Gruyere, bacon, sage, and crème Fraiche.

A portion of the proceeds from Battledish will benefit Roots Memphis Farm Academy, an incubator program to teach business and sustainable practices to new farmers. Event tickets are $5 with the discount code “stew,” and individual samplings are $5 each.

Complete ticket details are available at Dishcrawl Memphis, along with information on the tour group’s other events. Under the local direction of Kim Fuqua, Dishcrawl has been staging culinary tours in Memphis since January. The tours, which keep restaurant stops a secret until the tours unfold, started in San Jose, California, in 2010, and continues to expand through the United States in Canada.

I participated in a tour in Cooper-Young and was impressed with the sociability of participants and Fuqua’s upbeat leadership. Afterward, I asked her a few questions about her involvement with Dishcrawl and the future expansion of activities in Memphis. Here is what she had to say:

Memphis Stew: How did you got involved with Dishcrawl? 

Fuqua: I found myself looking for a Memphis Dishcrawl event to attend and did not see any on the schedule. I did, however, see that they were looking for an ambassador to represent Memphis, and I thought, what the heck, that sounds like fun! My background is in food writing, event planning, and marketing, so the position seemed to be in my wheelhouse. Plus, I love doing anything I can to help promote the evolving Memphis dining scene.

The Cooper-Young tour was 40 people strong. Are the Dishcrawl tours always that popular?

Every Dishcrawl we've run in Memphis this year has sold out at 40 tickets. Memphians are really embracing this concept of a food adventure.

How do you decide which restaurants to include on your tours?

Once I decide on a neighborhood and a theme, I begin reaching out to the restaurants I feel would be a good fit. I consider my personal dining experiences, menu selection, online reviews, and word of mouth. If there's a brand new restaurant in the neighborhood, I like to get them on the tour to help them gain some exposure. We're all about supporting the local restaurant community.

Is the format always the same or do you mix it up?

We definitely like to mix it up! The first four Memphis Dishcrawls were neighborhood based without any particular theme. Then I ran a crawl called Chefs Choice, the theme being what the local chefs like to eat. In September, we did a Vegan Crawl and a Taco Crawl. I think we need to continue to keep the concept fresh with fun new themes that will reach a variety of foodies' preferences.

Are participants always asking you to spill the beans on which restaurants are on the tour?

It's actually become a bit of a game for dishcrawlers at this point. We have a lot of repeat crawlers, and they like to try to catch me off guard by casually asking, "So... where are we going next?" Someone offered me $100 to divulge the next stop at my last crawl! They also love to guess where we're heading as we walk to the next stop. I try to keep the destinations surprising. It's a lot of fun.

I was surprised a food truck was included in the Cooper-Young tour. Will you be including food trucks regularly?

Yes, that was an idea I had to mix things up and add an element of surprise to the crawl. I think food trucks have become a wonderful new part of the Memphis dining landscape, and I'd like to find ways to include them in my events.

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