Chef Battle With Jeff Blank

Venison battle against the legendary Jeff Blank of Hudson's on the Bend at the 2007 Hill Country Wine and Food Festival... April Fools' Day and Passover Eve collided for this event

Rabid, tipsy Soup Peddler devotees crowded the main stage tent, pounding the tables with approval...

Ansel and Blank furiously tried to out-cook each other with the theme ingredient, venison... Chef Blank served tea-smoked, espresso-rubbed venison backstrap with beurre blanc... Ansel reached into his bag of tricks for the world's first venison barbacoa stuffed matzoh ball soup...

It was a humbling learning experience for the young, inexperienced Ansel...

But the crowd went wild for the reenactment of the little-known 11th plague visited upon the Pharoah, the dreaded walking matzoh balls.

The real winner was the crowd, who got to witness a fun and strange pairing for Mr. Blank, who is the Lou Gehrig, nay, the Cal Ripken of the Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, having performed every year in the festival's history.

Wine, food fair ends on sweet, sunny note
More than 5,000 soak up sun and grub as food festival winds down

By Kitty Crider


Monday, April 02, 2007

GEORGETOWN — South Austin Soup Peddler David Ansel and Hudson's on the Bend restaurant chef/owner Jeff Blank had a hokey, smoky smackdown Sunday afternoon, packing a culinary tent to standing-room only as the two popular cut-up chefs attempted to outcook each other with venison at the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Fair in San Gabriel Park.

Ansel — wearing a khaki sports vest filled with eggs, spices, a pepper grinder, and a variety of spoons and tools, including a hammer — whipped up venison-stuffed matzo ball soup. Blank, in his starched white chef's coat, responded with a smoked venison tenderloin, rubbed with chocolate, ancho chili and coffee. He labeled it a "mochachino wrapped around protein" and smoked it in a stove-top box with wood chips and tea.

"It may smell like Willie's picnic," Blank noted.

The banter and cooking battle were friendly, though — and, at times, dramatic. While Blank flamed a sauce, Ansel went for South Austin drama with a lit sparkler stuck in a soup pot handle. The audience of 100 wine and food lovers cheered its approval.