Chef Swap Uptown-Downtown: “Bone Crusher” Ward Counters

Chef Swap Uptown-Downtown: “Bone Crusher” Ward Counters

In the Chef Swap re-match, Jeff “Bone Crusher” Ward of Marisol Restaurante in Kitchener took over the Uptown 21 kitchen of Nick “The Mangler” Benninger.

Previously, Benninger rolled into Marisol and served up his battery of jabs and hooks in preparing a Marisol-inspired menu that included octopus fritto and seared black cod with Uptown 21 pancetta.

You can read about that battle here.

Jeff Ward, centre, with Benninger, left, and Chef Taylor Devalk (Photo: WREats).

Jeff Ward, centre, with Benninger, left, and Chef Taylor Devalk (Photo: WREats).

Bone Crusher nailed Benninger with a roasted beet and beef jerky salad with the fresh rigot that he loves so much at Marisol. The touch of arugula gives it a sharp finish and matches punch for punch Benninger’s previous use of the peppery ingredient.

Bee(t)(f) jerky (Photo: WREats).

Bee(t)(f) jerky (Photo: WREats).

Taking a cue from a comfort-food memory, Ward then dishes a delicious pot pie with smokey ham hock and pea that jabs at Benninger’s love of the porky product when he’s in the U21 kitchen. That’s followed by a texture contrast of lamb carpaccio, and pickled egg with crispy sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke) chips and anchovy Parmesan dressing. Terrific.

Comforting and delicious pot pie (Photo: WREats).

Comforting and delicious pot pie (Photo: WREats).

Whereas Benninger crisped up octopus at Marisol, Ward chicken-fried some sweetbreads and served them with fennel and celery root slaw and a nice red pepper jelly. This made way for another porky U21 dish with a Marisol inflection: braised pork belly and fried spätzle with a spiced apple mostarda.

Ward’s final course echoed Benninger’s burnt mandarin at Marisol: a dark chocolate and burnt orange mousse cake with a white chocolate gelato.

Choco mousse with (Photo: WREats).

Choco mousse with with gelato (Photo: WREats).

Over the course of these two Wednesday night “chef swaps,” a couple of things became apparent: these two guys can cook and they seemed to have a lot of fun doing it.

It was also apparent that this kind of event can be a good booster for the entire Waterloo Region food scene and is indicative of the kind of cooking and camaraderie that we have going on here — and which needs to be more widely embraced and promoted both inside and outside the region.

The rising tide lifts all boats — to shed the boxing metaphor!

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