We had an opportunity to face off against Peter Zappa and his handsome sons. Peter is the owner and chef at a perennial top rated restaurant on Trip Advisor in our hometown of Gloucester MA.
Just a couple days ago Ciadlia Schwartz and Warren Waugh the incredibly generous and hardworking people who make the Bluefin Blowout Tournament happen reached out to see if we would like to participate in a BBQ throwdown during the tourney. Proceeds would go to Alzheimer’s research, the disease that took my father at too early of an age.
I was so excited mostly because it was something I knew my daughters would love to do and we could do it together. They watch cooking shows like chopped and make pretty elaborate dishes on their own all the time, even at their young ages of 11 and 13.
The challenge was that we would be given kobe beef and fresh tuna loins and we were tasked with creating an ultimate burger with the kobe and an appetizer using the tuna.
Knowing we were going up against such a great chef in Peter and his sons with decades of experience I felt like we had to swing for the fences. We had to wow.
Really wanting to do something that had never been done before, I didn’t want to copy someone else’s recipe from YouTube or a BBQ book. I want it to be our own.
So Wednesday night after I got out of work my daughters and I went to the grocery store to find some tuna and ingredients to do a test run. The Burger I knew I had down. i knew exactly what we were going to do for the burger as I have utmost confidence in my burger game. I’ll get to the burgers later.
It took us a long time to decide on our first test with the tuna and what we settled on was Atomic Tuna Turds. I kinda had my heart set on these as I make Atomic Buffalo turds all the time and they are a big time crowd pleaser.
So I had Eloise practice cutting the jalapenos in half and trying to cut precisely down so there’d still be a little of the stem attached on each half. Madeline mixed cream cheese and sriracha and filled the jalapeno half, then placed a strip of salmon on top (there wasn’t any fresh tuna at the store), next we wrapped with bacon and added a dash of BBQ rub. Kate partially cooked the bacon before we wrapped the turd because we wanted the bacon to crisp up quickly so that the tuna would stay very rare inside. If we didn’t partially cook the bacon beforehand it would have taken too long to brown up and the tuna would have been cooked through. Once cooked the girls mixed sriracha and mayo and put it in a condiment dispenser to drizzle over the top almost like a chocolatier would do on a truffle.
Here was our result before the drizzle-
They were delicious. Super delicious. But you could barely taste the fish and we’ve watched enough episodes of chopped to know that you could get axed if the main ingredient that you’re supposed to use isn’t the star of the dish. at this point it was 8:30 PM. I had to get up at 3:30AM to get to work and we still needed to clean up the kitchen.
I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to let the girls down. I thought that it would be fun to be able to announce that we were making Atomic Tuna Turds and play around with that, and wow the judges. But the fish was not pronounced enough in the dish. We could execute it, the girls crushed their prep time. So all morning long on Thursday I was wracking my brain, trying to think of something else and contemplating just going with the turds. If we went with the turds it still would have had huge visual and taste impact and what would be the shame in losing to such and awesome famous chef like Peter Zappa?
Then it hit me. I had done bacon weaved phatty before which is sausage meat stuffed with cheese and whatever else you’d like enclosed in a bacon weave. Also bacon weave encrusted grilled cheese sandwiches.
Why not bacon weave encrusted tuna? I didn’t have the girls again til Friday night but I sent them with their mom to the grocery store to buy some bacon and practice bacon weaving. They sent me pictures and had the process down pat but I had concerns about precooking the bacon and still having it be pliable enough to bend to wrap around the tuna. Purchasing more bacon and tuna I tried another test run. Kate partially cooked the bacon for me while I fired up the small Weber Go Anywhere. It wasn’t just going to be the tuna inside. i kept think what did my favorite tuna dishes have, tuna and avocado! bamm! I originally thought we would use soy sauce on the side as a dipping sauce but after consulting my friends Susan Lipsett and Erik Lorden, they both advised my against that as there would already be a ton of salt from the bacon. So I found a wasabi dipping sauce that Kate whipped up that wouldn’t be so over the top salty-
- 2 cup mayonnaise
- 8 teaspoons soy sauce
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons wasabi paste or powder
The Weber Go-Anywhere has 160 square inches of cooking space and we needed to cook these offset the coals so the pieces of tuna were cut about three inches square and figured on a three by three bacon weave.
Here was the test run (in the video it doesn’t show the cracked black pepper on the avocado before we placed the tuna but it’s on there)-
I made the video to show the girls what they were going to be doing while I was cooking the burgers.
A couple of notes from the test run-
I did the test run using a 4×4 bacon weave, and determined that 3×3 would be sufficient.
When cutting something like you need to use a flat cutting board so you can make a nice long crisp cut. Cutting it on the plate that is receded in the center did not allow that long flat cut. we would need to bring the big butcher block.
I emailed the video to Eloise so she could envision it and we discussed the procedures and made note that the cracked black pepper needed to be put on after the avocado was placed and before the tuna was placed. Madeline had a million questions and wanted to make sure she had everything down pat.
Now for the burgers which would be my responsibility.
I knew we would start with Brioche rolls. They are the best for burgers IMO. my good friend Erik Lorden provided me with the brioche rolls, hamburger spikes and wasabi paste for our Tuna appetizer dipping sauce. Kate procured all the groceries while I was at work. I had a 45 minute break in the morning and I raced home to pack up the car with the ton of stuff we needed to get to Cape Ann Marina.
Here’s the list-
Thankfully for the past two weeks I’ve been on a burger tear. Just last week I researched ultimate burgers for hours on YouTube. So we’ve established we’d go with brioche rolls, next we’d slather sriracha mayo on the insides of the rolls and put them on the grill offset the griddle to toast them up. Eloise came up with a great idea to slather butter on top of the rolls to make them even more decadent.
So each burger would consist of two kobe beef smash burgers caramelized up and topped with Orange american cheese melted on. Here’s the construction-
- Top Bun Slathered On Top With Butter On Bottom with Sriracha Mayo
- Sauteed Onions
- Top Kobe Beef Smash Burger Patty covered With Melted Orange American Cheese
- Two Slices Of Thin Cut Spicy Pickles
- Bottom Kobe Beef Smash Burger Patty covered With Melted Orange American Cheese
- Bibb Lettuce
- Bottom Bun Slathered and Grilled With Sriracha Mayo
Here’s the girls working together like rockstar chefs! We had the discussion before about how we want to win obviously but it was all about enjoying the experience and having fun. Most importantly that if anything went sideways to absolutely under no circumstances were they to criticize each other, only encourage. If we stay together and have fun it’s going to be a win anyway. Also I told them that going up against Peter Zappa who had that much experience cooking under pressure no one would expect us to win so lets just swing for the fences and relish the underdog role.
As it turns out they were flawless. I didn’t have to look over my shoulder once, they just flat out executed everything we went over. I know they get sick of me telling them how proud of them I am and they’re so great but this was next level happy dad stuff. 🙂
Peter and his sons did a great job as well and they were so fun to cook alongside. They are a beautiful classy family and an incredible asset to the Gloucester community. As I’ve said from the beginning when I found out we were competing with them, there’s a reason The Causeway is routinely ranked so highly on Trip Advisor. They know how to treat people and they produce excellent food, year in and year out.
In the end the judges consisting of Warren Waugh whose Waugh Auto Group Puts On The Bluefin Blowout, Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Karen Hanson of By The Sea Sotheby’s International Real Estate and One Of The Funniest men On the Planet Jeff Wilkes from Glasstech who bid to be the fourth judge (the money of which went to Alzheimer’s research).
Bridgette Mathews photo
It ended up a tie. The Mayor who I love proclaimed- “It better not be spicy because I don’t do spice>” (which is bananas if you’re judging a BBQ competition) but we walked out with a tie and a victory in that we got to spend time with the beautiful Zappa family and cook alongside our children and raise money for a cause near and dear to my heart- Alzheimer’s research. We’d like to thank my beautiful wife Kate, my sister and mother, Erik Lorden, Susan Lipsett, Cidalia Schwartz, Nichole Schrafft, The Judges, the Zappas, all our friends that came out to support us (and buy us drinks) and especially Warren Waugh who does an incredible amount not only for Alzheimer’s research but also our community.
As a prize Warren and Anthony Caturano from Tonno will be hosting us for dinner at Warren’s beautiful home on Mussel Point.