WestSide Throwdown Draws Big Names, Small Crowd

Host Beau MacMillan was in fine spirits -- or shall we say, in the fine spirits -- last night at the inaugural WestSide Throwdown culinary challenge at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria. The event was bizarre. Attendance was spotty, and everyone (even the host) seemed to have tapped into the free margaritas and tequila a little too much.

"If you have a party and there's Harleys, there's margaritas, there's chicken wings... you know good things are going to happen. Or illegal things," quipped host Beau MacMillan, Iron Chef winner and co-star of Food Network's Worst Cooks in America. MacMillan even made several references to hot girls and breasts during the show ("If you don't like Double D's, I don't know what's wrong with you," he joked after spotting the D'Licious Dishes "I heart DD's" t-shirts). 

Not that we here at New Times have anything against a good T&A reference, but it's unusual to hear one at a cooking competition. Then again, this was no ordinary culinary event...

There were motorcycles, tattooed chefs, a beer truck and a hot blonde co-host in jeans ripped up to there. The chefs were even whipping up pub food in a Battle of the Chicken Wings. 

Things were a little rocky at the Showdown. While the event technically started at 4:30 p.m., the chefs didn't take the stage until after 5:30. One judge missed the first round. There were no chairs at the outdoor kitchen, so guests had to sit on the ground or stand while watching the cook-off. And guests were given food tickets we never needed. There are always some kinks to be worked out in an event's first year, though.

C-CAP Arizona Director Jill Smith's student shows off her coconut-crusted pork.

​The upside was that with such a small crowd, you could see the stage from any angle. No pushing or shoving, no annoying dude with the ball cap blocking your view. It was also super-easy to snag food. Culinary students from the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) came around with samples of coconut-crusted pork and wings that were pretty tasty. There was also a buffet featuring corned beef, salad, sides and some of the cook-off entries -- with little to no line.

Battle of the Wings recap:

The University of Phoenix Stadium's Sean Kavanagh took on Glenn Humphrey of the Arizona Culinary Institute in the first round. Humphrey won the crowd over with bacon-smothered wings and blue cheese ice cream made using liquid nitrogen, but the judges differed, selecting Kavanagh's exotic spiced wings instead.

​In round two, Tim Fields of Sushi Roku bested Trudie Frank-Johnson of D'licious Dishes -- another surprising victory considering how gorgeous her giant wings looked on the grill. 

The final battle pitted newcomer Heidi Lee against Joshua Hebert of Posh. "Can you put in a good word with the judges for me?" quipped Hebert when he caught me taking photos on the sidelines. Hebert donated a $660 dinner for six at Posh to the event's raffle, so at least the guest judge chosen from the raffle participants was likely on his side. 

The victor -- with the highest score of the night -- was Heidi Lee of event sponsor IntotheSoup.com, in her first cooking competition ever. Can you say fixed? Actually, her wings looked pretty tasty (though sadly, I didn't get to sample them). Plus, the East Valley chefs mopped up 2 out of 3 rounds so it was only fair that the last West Valley chef to compete took home the win.

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