So here it is: The culmination of endless hours of sleepless work, frantic grocery shopping, and tireless phone calls. Project X.
And, my God, was it amazing. Seeing the level of organization, of originality, and full-on fun that everyone was having is a true testament to the work ethic of everyone who put this insanely awesome event together.
It went off without a hitch; like a well-oiled machine; and pretty much every other saying for “hard work that looked easy.”
So, before I actually go into the event itself and provide you with the literally juicy details, I’ve just go to say this first: Bravo! And thank you. Seriously, the team behind this event deserve statues built in their honor. Basma, Ahmed, Victor, and Olga are ‘The Dream Team.’ They deserve everyone’s gratitude. For real.
Now, as for the actual cooking bonanza itself, I have to be honest and say it like it is: I did not have any particularly high expectations. Not that I thought the bloggers were poisonously bad cooks or that they weren’t capable of boiling an egg. I just didn’t expect to see anything stunning or really all that interesting.
And, well, I stand corrected.
I swear, almost every dish that I came across was a creation in its own right. The level of innovation, thought, and strong ability that a good handful of bloggers showed in the preparation, presentation, and overall concept of their dishes was a wonderful surprise for me to observe. Every single blogger who competed in Project X should, no matter what, be very proud indeed.
So, as you’ve probably already read on most of the contestant’s blogs, the bloggers who were lined up for the day one preliminary had to make a dish which could somehow incorporate the first secret ingredient: MANGO! There were salads, there was chicken, and their was pasta. Yes, mango was incorporated into every single one of those. And, yes, its as inspired as it sounds.
By the time the second round arrived, I, unfortunately, had to bolt (damn you, real life!). But, based on what I’ve heard and seen from other bloggers, it looks like second batch of mystery/joker ingredients–BLUE CHEESE AND HONEY!– were game changers. There was shrimp, there was mushroom, and their was dessert. Again: as inspired as it sounds.
After each round, the judges gave their opinion on each dish to the teams then had a little private pow-wow of their own to discuss what they thought of everyone’s dish in a broader sense. This was repeated in the second round as well.
Now, naturally, the judges were a little more thrilled with some dishes than they were with others but I think that, on the whole, they did a pretty good job of surveying all the necessary criteria and giving honest, helpful feedback.
The victors of the first preliminary cook-off were the following:
- Moody (of the awesome Moody ‘N’ Cheeky duo) & one of the Triple Sisters (Je3da, I believe)
- The other two Triple Sisters (Lil Teacher and Photographer)
- FroyoNation & The Side Talk
The other teams that participated but did not luck out with a qualifying win were:
- Jacqui & Swera
- Fried Junk & 7abitain Blog
- The fellas from ChapterQ8
AND ONTO DAY TWO!
In the same order as the first preliminary, everyone started to file in at around 3 PM, putting on their aprons and taking a glance or two at the pantry or the work stations. Once everyone, including the judges, had arrived and settled in, we were off and the first mystery ingredient was revealed: AVOCADO! The first thought I had was guacamole dip or sauce. It just seemed like the easiest, most obvious choice, but I was all kinds of surprised to see some people going in a completely different direction.
Sure, there was guacamole dip. But there was also avocado chicken, avocado mushrooms, and avocado shrimp to name a few. Clearly, most of the bloggers did not care about playing it safe and wanted to push the limit of their creativity here. As I was running around the kitchen area, frantically rushing to help out wherever I was needed, I have to tell you that watching the process through which some of these crazy yet awesome dishes were created was a total thrill.
In the second round, the competitors anxiously awaited the second mystery ingredient, as well as the “joker” ingredient to be revealed: BACON AND NUTELLA! Now, how any of them were able to pull a rabbit out of that hat and actually create something edible with these two things is seriously beyond me. I racked my brains thinking about how I would find a way to incorporate the two ingredients without suppressing the urge to barf AND I GOT NOTHING.
So, seeing some of the amazingly creative dishes that were presented was nothing if not stunning! Nutella wantons wrapped in bacon? Sure! Bacon-Nutella crepes? Of course! Bacon-Nutella burger, lettuce wraps? Well, DUH.
And that’s only the half of it. Seriously, pretty much every single dish that was being brought up in this round blew my mind in one way or another! Regardless of whether or not the ideas worked, they were some of the bravest culinary attempts I have ever seen.
Now, once again, the judges gave their candidly humorous and fair opinion of what they thought of each dish to the respective teams, then they had their own little roundtable talk on the side. And, I have to say, the judges were really quite good sports. They were truly patient and caring enough to endure some seriously spicy salads, salty shrimp, and raw dough. They had a humorous, constructive approach which put everyone at ease and didn’t dredge up any kind of tension.
In the second preliminary the three qualifying teams were made up of:
- The El-Derwaza team
- The Triple F & UrbanQ8
The teams that just missed the cut were:
- Q8Rain & Dudette (from 7ajidude)
- Our Family Nest
- Danderma & PinkGirlQ8
Of course, as the saying goes, everyone’s a winner. Regardless of whether or not they had actually moved on to the final round, everyone was treated with an enormous amount of loot from the sponsors of the event and left the place with huge smiles on their faces.
I personally can’t express enough how much I enjoyed meeting (or re-meeting) all these awesome bloggers and how much fun it was to help out the creative force of nature that is Basma, Ahmed, and the Chef Boutique gang. Working with these guys and being a part of this amazingly inspired and one-of-a-kind event was a complete pleasure and I honestly can’t wait for next weekend to roll around so that I can be a part of it all over again!
Here are a few pictures of the assorted dishes the bloggers came up with in both preliminaries. They were taken with my iPhone so I doubt they’re going to show up in Epicurious any time soon.