Sepehr Sadrzadeh of Pullman snags IC Top Chef title


Becca Breazeale, a bartender from Forbinnen Planet, pours cocktails during Top Chef inside Hotel Vetro in Iowa City on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. The award for “Best Mixologist” went to Micky’s Irish Pub. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)


The dumplings have been devoured, cocktails drained, and votes cast. Both fresh and familiar faces left Iowa City’s Top Chef competition with crowns last night, while 400 attendees waddled home with bloated bellies.

For the sixth year, hotelVetro’s lobby hosted the culinary showcase and showdown. Two-dozen local businesses made up the four categories: entrées, mixology, barista, and desserts. People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice awards were handed out.

Chefs strove to display innovative entrées, such as the University Club’s stout-braised beef and Local Burritos’ corn-slaw-decorated shrimp taco. But Sepehr Sadrzadeh of Pullman Bar & Diner was bestowed IC’s Top Chef for his “Tiny But Mighty Popcorn Grits.” The refined comfort food featured tender pork shoulder glazed with Worcestershire sauce.

“We put a lot of hours and work into this, so it’s like validation,” Sadrzadeh said. “It’s great that with what is local and seasonal in Iowa right now we could make this.”

A newcomer to Iowa City, Dumpling Darling’s peanut sauce-drizzled lamb dumplings earned the People’s Choice title.

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“We’re such a new business, so to have people like what we’re doing this much is so encouraging,” said Lesley Triplett.

Iowa City staples also enjoyed the spotlight.

Last year, the Mill swept the mixology category with its Fitzgerald. This year, it entered the Mill’s No. 1 Cup, bursting with strawberry and citrus. The judges gave the establishment third, but the people gave it first.

“It makes me happier that the majority of the people in the room liked our cocktail more than anyone else,” said Mill mixologist Sam Abba.

Chris Martin, a bartender at Micky's Irish Pub, torches a piece of garnish for a cocktail during Top Chef inside Hotel Vetro on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Martin and Jeremiah Bruk (not pictured) were awarded the title of "Best Mixologist" while representing Micky's. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)
Chris Martin, a bartender at Micky’s Irish Pub, torches a piece of garnish for a cocktail during Top Chef inside Hotel Vetro on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Martin and Jeremiah Bruk (not pictured) were awarded the title of “Best Mixologist” while representing Micky’s. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Micky’s Pear of Rosey Gingers won the judges’ favor. The cocktail is a complex concoction including blood orange, rosemary, cinnamon, star anise, and Cedar Ridge Pear Brandy. Mixologist Chris Martin had won statewide competitions, but nothing local.

“This feels more humble and homecoming,” he said. “It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, to be recognized here.”

Also being recognized for the first time this year were the farmers responsible for growing key ingredients in the night’s dishes.

Community Supported Agriculture farmers welcomed attendees with a bite of local produce and information on their process, building a new dialogue at Top Chef.

“As a farmer, it’s neat to be here since food is not just an experience of the restaurant,” said Wild Woods Farm’s Kate Edwards. “We want people directly involved with our farms.”

Because every year includes new members of the culinary and residential community, competition takes a backseat to connection.

“It’s always fun to win the event, but it’s more fun to just hang out with people in the same trade,” said Motley Cow’s David Wieseneck. His cocoa flan, a chilled treat layered with decadent potato chips, pomegranate seeds, and other winter fruits, won the judges’ top dessert. “You make contact with a lot of different people who might not be coming in your business all the time,” he said.












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