Dakota's Jack Riebel wins local chef challenge


Not canned smoked oysters, nor chorizo, nor even lingonberries were enough to phase Dakota Jazz Club Chef Jack Riebel during this past weekend's "Chef Challenge" at Minnesota Monthly's "Food and Wine Experience." Riebel knocked out Corner Table's Scott Pampuch -- secret ingredient: oysters -- and La Belle Vie's Mike DeCamp -- with chorizo -- before going head to head over lingonberries with the Strip Club's J.D. Fratzke in Sunday's final round.

The win earned Riebel $5,000 cash and a $1,000 gift certificate to Kitchen Window -- dammmnnn! And Riebel was so happy with his final entree he's seriously considering putting it on the menu at the Dakota.

The challenge worked kind of like a shorter, reverse version of "Iron Chef," with chefs having to choose main ingredients from one main supply before finding out the "secret" ingredient and then having less than an hour to prepare for the three judges: Minnesota Monthly's Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, the Strib's Bill Ward, and WCCO's Jason DeRusha. Chefs were also allowed 15 minutes to collect suitable cookware and utensils.

The final round required Riebel and Fratzke to prepare an appetizer and an entree in just 35-40 minutes. In a spontaneous move, the two had runners-up Sameh Wadi (of Saffron) and DeCamp serve as their sous chefs -- Wadi with Fratzke and DeCamp with Riebel (no hard feelings -- aww).

And what exactly does one do when pressed for time with lingonberries?

For their appetizer, Riebel and DeCamp made lamb carpaccio brushed with a lingonberry and chipotle gastrique with whole lingonberries on top and garnished with micro-arugula, parmesan cheese, pine nuts and apple.

For the entree, Riebel had earlier chosen barramundi -- a fish popular in many Thai dishes -- which he seared, skin-on, and topped with a dressing made of lingonberry jam, roasted peppers, five different herbs, and ancho chiles. The fish was served alongside a saffron couscous and atop a kumquat and cumin reduction -- which also included tangerines, shallots, butter, and grapefruit. A lingonberry jam vinaigrette was drizzled on the outside as well.

And what's Riebel gonna do with the dough? Though he says -- jokingly? -- that it could damage his status as the Twin Cities' sexiest chef, Riebel says he's going to use it to buy his lady a wedding ring [insert awwww here]. And the Kitchen Window gift certificate? Dude doesn't know! Maybe an espresso maker he says.

Other participants included Oceanaire's Rick Kimmes, D'Amico's John Occhiato and Grand Cafe's Jon Radle -- last year's winner.