Humidity and morning rain weren’t enough to keep away the crowd that showed up for the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival’s Battle of the Brunch II on Sunday. The weather cleared up shortly before, and the three chef teams were ready to compete.
Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Cafe and Sven Ullrich of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki were back to defend their title, but would they be able to repeat as champions?
Wong’s partner, Ullrich, served an omelet with sausage, veggies and kiawe bean crumble. At a glance their dishes seemed simple. This was a definite gamble that clean, familiar flavors would be enough to hold off the competition. Would it pay off?
Jackie Lau of Roy’s Restaurants was the only other returning chef from last year’s battle. She looked to topple Wong and Ullrich with her take on “chips and salsa,” which included Kona abalone, avocado, uni and fried fish skins.
The final team looking to take the championship consisted of Sherry Yard of Helms Bakery in Los Angeles and local chef Chris Kajioka. Kajioka impressed with an ulu-potato pancake on smoked kampachi. Probably the best tater tot I’ve ever had.
Yard complemented Kajioka’s dish with a Kaiserschmarren, a souffle-like pancake made with creme fraiche. Served with strawberry coulis and fresh mangoes, it was my favorite dish of the event and in my eyes, put them in the running for a victory.
The friendly competition and camaraderie among the chefs made this one of the most fun events of the festival. The rain started shortly after the winners were announced, yet many of the chefs lingered for photos with their fellow competitors. And now the wait begins to see if Ullrich and Wong can make it a three-peat.