On June 26, 15 chefs, as well as home-based fermenters, will compete at the Fermentation Takedown. Utilizing anything from kimchi to kombucha, self-proclaimed fermentation enthusiasts will face off in the no-frills cook-off.
The Takedown movement, founded by Boston-bred Matt Timms, joined forces with Boston Ferments, a community of fermentation enthusiasts headed by Jeremy Ogusky. “It’s like the anti-chef show — those can be hierarchical and formulaic,” Ogusky explains. “The Takedown is just to have fun and anyone can participate.”
Sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon and hosted at the Middle East, around 250 eager will gather at the raucous food party. And you definitely get to taste — competitors will dish out their unconventional bites all afternoon. A panel of judges pick an official winner while attendees cast their votes for a "people’s choice."
For the chefs, there is only one rule: Each culinary creation must include a fermented element. Ogusky and Timms kept the criteria intentionally vague to encourage creativity and ensure that everyone brings something different to the table. “It’s a whole great universe and I hope that’s represented,” Ogusky says.
Though the practice of fermentation is thousands of years old, the movement is currently hitting a high note. Health-focused foodies note the holistic benefits of fermented feasting. While many processed foods are sapped of critical nutrients, fermented sips and bites are full of microbes that aid in digestion and immunity. Ogusky adds, “Fermentation is the number one way to bring microbes back into our bodies."
DIY-lovers are also flocking to ferment, but creating a fermented food isn’t an immediate-gratification process. It requires tasting, tweaking and (mostly) waiting. Ogusky himself doesn’t use measurements when he’s working on a sauerkraut or kombucha — he eyeballs it, fine-tuning as he discovers what works and what doesn’t. Though the concept of food seasonality is practically dead (strawberries in February, anyone?) Ogusky suggests fermenting fresh berries from the summer into a jam to enjoy year round.
“There are cool things to do with flavor that are only achieved through fermentation,” he says.
Ogusky hopes that the Takedown will open people’s eyes to the world of fermentation. He notes that the world of fermented cooking is contingent on experimentation, and the creative possibilities are endless. “The idea is to really blow people’s minds about what fermentation can be.”
If you go:
June 26, 2 to 4 p.m.
The Middle East - Downstairs
472-480 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge