by Andrew Chalk
Julio Peraza is the new AIWF Caesar Salad Champion, making him the twenty second winner of the annual competition that challenges Dallas chefs to win a public vote with their Caesar Salad and ‘lagniappe’ dish. In an impassioned acceptance speech the executive chef at Komali and Salum Peraza attributed his success to his hard-working sous chef Abraham Salum (who also happens to be his boss). The Peraza-Salum team described their winning dish as “Ancho Braised Short Rib and Queso Fresco Tamal, Black Bean Sauce, Crema and Chile de Arbol Salsa”. This is on the menu at Komali. Peraza now becomes Honorary Chair of next year’s event. So popular was this dish that it was sold out before I got to it after circling around taking pictures.
Second place went to Andrea Maricich, executive chef of The Second Floor restaurant at the Westin Galleria. She made House-cured fennel and black pepper Lonzino with orange and oregano compressed melon. It wasn’t hard to see why this dish did well. As well as a delicate salad the wooden spoons of compressed melon were memorable.
Third place went to Kenny Mills of Chop House Burgers in Arlington (not to be confused with Chop House Burger in Dallas, and now branching out. There is a lot in the letter ‘s’). He made Sliders. A good quality bun surrounded a tasty meat burger and sauce.
Voting was by the attendees who were drawn from the AIWF membership and general public. After the embarrassment of last year’s event being cancelled it was good to see a packed ballroom at the Westin Galleria.
Also held at the event were a silent auction and a live auction.
Proceeds from the event support the AIWF’s “Days of Taste” event in Dallas in which local 4th and 5th grade children who explore the ABCs of taste and health. Ultimately the program hopes to address and reverse the problem of childhood obesity. Proceeds will be announced this week.
Potential competitors, and diners looking for a good Caesar Salad around town, should be aware that voters base their decision more on the lagniappe than the salad. For example, Ruth Chris’s Thomas Holt had substantial slivers of anchovy as a flavor and taste component of his Caesar (see picture) but he didn’t place. Maybe they should have two votes for each chef: one for the salad, and the other for the lagniappe.