FCTD winners

it was a full house of full bellys at beaver's this past monday for the houston chowhounds fried chicken throwdown. jonathan jones was our gracious host. over 150 houchies, chefs, and industry folks gathered to binge on copious amounts of fried chicken and some of the best sides imaginable. but really everyone was there to see which of houston's top chefs would be the throwdown champ. the prize? just good ole fashion bragging rights. here's how the throwdown... well, went down.

twelve chefs competed in the classic fried chicken competition. the requirements for this category were: must be (1) chicken, (2) bone-in, and (3) skin-on. entries in this category were judged on (1) crispiness/texture of crust, (2) tenderness of meat, (3) seasoning and (4) overall taste.

Justin Basye, chef de cuisine at VOICE
Classic: Basye Family Recipe*

Frank Butera, chef/owner of Frank's Chop House
Classic: Frank’s Chop House Classic Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Fowl Frying Flyers
Jason Gould
, chef/owner of Gravitas
Team Member(s): David Grossman & Cody Dryer
Classic: Buttermilk Battered Fried Chicken

Jonathan Jones, chef/owner of Beaver's
JJ's Famous Fried Chicken

Killen’s Steakhouse
Ronnie Killen, chef/owner of Killen's Steakhouse
Team Member(s): Dee Dee Killen & Ryan Penn
Classic: Ronnie Killen’s Fried Chicken*

*17 Ex-Pats
Dax McAnear, chef de cuisine at Textile and Ryan Pera, executive chef at The Grove
Classic: Exhibit A

Frank “The Shank”
Frank Moore
, sommelier at Textile
Classic: Family Tradition*

Michael O'Connor, restaurant chef at Houston Country Club
Team Member(s): Marc Gabriel Medina
Classic: Fried Chicken w/ sweet potato waffles and honey-lemon butter*

Dusty Sagasser, smokemaster at Beaver's
Classic: Beer battered, smoked fried chicken

Catalan (AKA those Mother Cluckers)
Chris Shepherd
, chef/owner of Catalan
Team Member(s): Antoine Ware & Matthew Pridgen
Classic: I Am Not Sharing

Cody Vasek, executive sous chef at VOICE
God’s Country Classic Chicken*

Jamie Zelko, chef/owner of Zelko Bistro (opening soon)
Classic: Zelko Bistro’s Captain’s Fried Chicken*

five chefs competed in the creative fried chicken competition. the requirements for this category were: must contain (1) poultry of some design, (2) a fried component, and (3) an attachment to fried chicken (i.e. must be reminiscent of fried chicken somehow). entries in this category were judged on (1) originality, (2) presentation, (3) how evocative of fried chicken it was and (4) overall taste.

Frank Butera, chef/owner of Frank's Chop House
Creative: Pollo Fritto All’abruzzese
spaghetti w/an italian, peasant-style ragu made with chicken hearts and gizzards topped with more fried hearts and gizzards.

Team Haven
Randy Evans, chef/owner of Haven (opening this fall)
Team Member(s): Kevin Naderi
Creative: Fried Chicken Ballantine with Watermelon Rind Slaw & Black Pepper Bourbon Gravy*

Fowl Frying Flyers
Jason Gould, chef/owner of Gravitas
Team Member(s): David Grossman & Cody Dryer
Creative: Mustard Crusted Battered & Fried Chicken

Plinio Sandalio, pastry chef at Textile & Gravitas
Team Member(s): Erika Mandeville
Creative: Chicken and Biscuits: buttermilk biscuits, chicken ice cream, honey-guajillo butter, crispy chicken flakes*

Cody Vasek, executive sous chef at VOICE
Creative: “Chicken and Funnel Cake”
chicken drumettes, frenched, dipped in funnel cake batter and deep fried. served with maple syrup and powdered sugar.

* recipes are included in the recipe book


Congrats to all of our fried chicken throwdown winners!

In the Classic category

1st place - Cody Vasek, VOICE, God’s Country Classic Chicken
Cody's fried chicken was brined in pepperoncini juice and served with shiner bock beer bread

2nd place: Ronnie Killen, Killen's Steakhouse (Pearland), Ronnie Killen's Fried Chicken
Ronnie's fried chicken was cryovac-ed in buttermilk & spices and sous vided before it was battered and fried.

3rd place: Jason Gould, Gravitas, Buttermilk Battered Fried Chicken
Jason's fried chicken is available every Tuesday night at Gravitas as a blue plate special.

if i could give an award for most interesting crust, my first place would go to the *17 Ex-Pats team (Dax & Ryan) for a "bread crumb" mixture made from a combination of chicharron (pork rinds), pulverized crawfish shells, ramen noodles, and the ramen seasoning pack. it created an extremely crispy crust and some really interesting flavors no one quite expected.

my second place would go to Jamie Zelko for her slightly sweet crust of Captain Crunch cereal, corn flakes, oatmeal, and panko bread crumbs. the taste and texture was wonderful and definitely kid-friendly.

also worth noting is Dusty Sagasser's entry which was first smoked and then beer battered. the smokiness of the chicken meat was very pleasing.

In the Creative category:

1st place: Randy Evans, Haven, Fried Chicken Ballantine with Watermelon Rind Slaw & Black Pepper Bourbon Gravy
randy's chicken was served with a refreshing watermelon rind slaw and very delicious watermelon juice iced tea. he nailed the "evocative of fried chicken" judging criteria.

2nd place: Plinio Sandalio, Textile, Chicken and Biscuits: buttermilk biscuits, chicken ice cream, honey-guajillo butter, crispy chicken flakes
plinio's chicken ice cream (basically a frozen sweet veloute) was surprisingly tasty (well, maybe not if you're familiar with his work). he had some freezer issues at the event so his ice cream was served more like a semi-freddo. the chicken cracklin was incredibly, ridiculously delicious.

3rd place: Jason Gould, Gravitas, Mustard Crusted Battered & Fried Chicken

so who judged all 17 of these entries? a panel of houston chowhounds composed of (clockwise from top) Bryan Caswell of REEF, Jim Gossen of Louisiana Foods, Katharine Shilcutt Houston Press' food writer and She Eats blogger, Jay Francis Houston Press' food explorer, moi, and Karen Rittinger who won the wild card judge spot. it was seriously hard work, but someone had to do it!

but we weren't the only judges at the event. Nine houchies participated in battle mac and cheese potluck. Guess who judged this event? All the chefs at the event including Bryan Caswell and Monica Pope.

The chefs decided. Our mac & cheese winners were:

1st place: Cindy Robertson, Truly Scrumptious Mac-N-Cheese
2nd place: Chuck Redick, Chuck E. Mac and Cheese
3rd place: Matthew McClung, Not Yo Crawdaddy's Mac & Cheese

The event raised over $700 for Recipe for Success who were onsite at the event. Four chefs donated their $50 stipend towards food costs to the charity. These gastro angels were Ronnie Killen, Michael O'Connor, Plinio Sandalio, and Chris Shepherd.

Recipe books were also sold at the event which contained all nine mac & cheese recipes and 8 fried chicken recipes (including both 1st place winners) with 100% of the proceeds donated to Recipe for Success. Special thanks to Syd Kearney and 29-95 for printing our books and ballots for free and for doing it with such short notice.

If you would like a copy of the recipe book, please send a $5.50 donation via paypal to imneverfull@gmail.com and a PDF of the book will be emailed to you. Our goal is to raise $1000 for Recipe for Success.

Also, be sure to read the Houston Press write-up.

all photos courtesy of katharine shilcutt. view the complete set of FCTD photos on flickr.


Eric said...

One aspect of Monday's event that I haven't seen much written about is the interaction between the chefs. It looked to me as though they really enjoyed the opportunity to get together. While they may see each other after work at a bar, the TD was family-friendly enough for them to bring their kids. Working nights, weekends and holidays probably doesn't leave them with many opportunities for group outings that the rest of us take for granted. Hopefully providing that atmosphere will encourage even more chefs to participate in future TDs.

hedrives said...

I agree with Eric's comment. The camaraderie between chef's and their staff with one another was remarkable. It spoke to a shared respect for the art of cooking rather than the business of restaurants. I had a blast and it was nice to raise money for charity. Also, hats off to bartender Ryan and the rest of Beaver's staff for doing a fantastic job on their normal day off.

Randy E said...

A great big thanks goes out to the crew of Beaver's for coming on their day off to clean up after all the chefs in the kitchen!

Harry Balzitch said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Katharine said...


I agree that the camaraderie was fantastic to watch. I made sure to note that in the writeup I did over at the Press. Very fun to watch all the chefs acting as each others' sous chefs, watiers, bussers, etc. while enjoying the hell out of themselves and each other. :D


Yes. Yes, I am. I see you've taken to trolling other blogs now that the Press has IP banned you. Have fun with that! :)

neverfull said...

thanks to everyone who submitted their recipe or purchased a FCTD recipe book!

we hit our $1000 goal on 6/15 by selling 51 books in less than 3 hours during a twitterthon. i met with recipe for success later that afternoon and gave them that big fat check!

neverfull said...

and read katharine's awesome write-up of the event on houston press:


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