Hawaiian comfort food Loco Moco got a makeover as the Chef Wanted crew went to Ola restaurant in Oahu. Local ingredients were key to winning the executive chef position.
Loco Moco is a basic food dish in Hawaii and in its simplest form is made from ground beef, rice, gravy and topped with eggs.
Ola restaurant wanted a bit of a menu restart and someone to lift responsibilities from the shoulders of owner Fred DeAngelo and his wife.
The new executive chef needed to understand, appreciate and incorporate locally sourced fruits, vegetables and fish, into new entrees on Ola's menu.
The Chef Wanted format begins with four chefs vying for the position and weeds out two with quick kitchen challenges.
The first challenge was to take the traditional Loco Moco and create an upscale version while staying true to the basics of the dish.
Each of the chef candidates took a different approach, with some replacing beef with local fish. After all challenges and a trial dinner service, Chef Casey Barnes emerged the winner. Watch him in action in video posted below.
Loco Moco a la Chef Sean Currid
Going upscale for Sean meant traveling up the beef food chain to fillet. Instead of gravy, Sean got tempted and finally gave in to his desire to use Spam to create the sauce. On top of the eggs he added thinly sliced pickled vegetables.
Noting that Spam is embedded in Hawaii as a go-to food for comfort, he went ahead with incorporating it into the dish along with rice.
Loco Moco by Chef Crystal Zehetner
"I decided I want to do something healthy," Crystal explained. "Loco Moco is not particularly my favorite dish because it reminds me of when I was a kid and my mother used to make smothered steak."
Her Loco Moco consisted of thinly sliced beef tenderloin over rice with a fennel salad, a basted egg, topped with crispy onions.
Loco Moco interpreted by Chef Jared Combs
Chef Currid began by creating a Cajun blackening sauce for Ahi tuna that would be the base of the dish. Rather than using rice, Sean chose the local Okinawan potatoes.
"The potatoes will give it a little bit of texture and a little bit of flavor," he said. Anne Burrell was a bit concerned telling him, "Loco Moco is not Loco Moco without rice."
Loco Moco as made by Chef Casey Barnes
Chef Barnes also chose fish to replace the beef in his Loco Moco dish. He chose Opa, a rich, fatty fish he saw as the perfect replacement for the beef patty.
He chose avocados to mix in with the fish. His rice component was a crispy rice cake with a tomato jam rather than the typical gravy. Topping it all off were poached eggs sprinkled with wild mushrooms.
Image: Wikimedia Commons. Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell airs Thursdays on the Food Network.
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