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Will Wok for Food

Young professionals Iron Chef-style throwdown answers question: Where's the beef?

Iron Chef-style throwdown answers question: Where's the beef?

131 The crowd at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Lily Jang interviewing Eric Sandler. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
144 Chefs at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Jojo Urbano, from left, Donald Chang, Gabriel Medina and Cathy Nguyen. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
66 Adrienne Wong, left, and Loida Wexler at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Adrienne Wong, left, and Loida Wexler. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
57 Adam Johnson and Claudia Sartori at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Adam Johnson and Claudia Sartori. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
71 Christina Dang, from left, Melissa Permé and Lien Pham at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Christina Dang, from left, Melissa Permé and Lien Pham. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
69 James Ozenci, left, and Ruben Lizaola at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
James Ozenci, left, and Ruben Lizaola. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
60 Justin Lasiewicz and Heliz Forouzan at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Justin Lasiewicz and Heliz Forouzan. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
53 Azel Agustin, from left, Tiffany Chen and Paul Silva at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Azel Agustin, from left, Tiffany Chen and Paul Silva. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
72 NAME, from left, Lily Jang, Eric Sandler and NAME at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Joshua Silver, from left, Lily Jang, Eric Sandler and Katherine Whaley. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
48 Megan Elaine Doherty, from left, Batool Alsheikh, Huda Alsheikh and Thu and Austin Doherty at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Megan Elaine Doherty, from left, Batool Alsheikh, Huda Alsheikh and Thu and Austin Doherty. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
46 Adolfo Celis, from left, Wen Hsiang, Justin Chen and Berry Crispin at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Adolfo Celis, from left, Wen Hsiang, Justin Chen and Berry Crispin. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
44 Monica Hwang, left, and Melissa Kwan at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Monica Hwang, left, and Melissa Kwan. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
113 NAME cooking at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Gabriel Medina. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
30 Gabe Medina's winning dish at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Gabe Medina's winning dish. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
132 Name, left, and Donald Chang at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
Jojo Urbano, left, and Donald Chang. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
137 The crowd at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
The crowd. Photo by Thomas B. Shea
131 The crowd at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
144 Chefs at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
66 Adrienne Wong, left, and Loida Wexler at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
57 Adam Johnson and Claudia Sartori at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
71 Christina Dang, from left, Melissa Permé and Lien Pham at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
69 James Ozenci, left, and Ruben Lizaola at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
60 Justin Lasiewicz and Heliz Forouzan at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
53 Azel Agustin, from left, Tiffany Chen and Paul Silva at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
72 NAME, from left, Lily Jang, Eric Sandler and NAME at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
48 Megan Elaine Doherty, from left, Batool Alsheikh, Huda Alsheikh and Thu and Austin Doherty at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
46 Adolfo Celis, from left, Wen Hsiang, Justin Chen and Berry Crispin at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
44 Monica Hwang, left, and Melissa Kwan at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
113 NAME cooking at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
30 Gabe Medina's winning dish at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
132 Name, left, and Donald Chang at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014
137 The crowd at the Asia Society Texas Center Kobe beef Cook-off December 2014

We've seen chef Donald Chang cracking jokes and busting a move while cooking and entertaining guests. But the Nara restaurant owner was serious nom nom business as he and sous chef Jojo Urbano went wok to wok with  Soma co-executive chef Gabriel Medina and sous chef Cathy Nguyen in an Iron Chef-style throwdown at an Asia Society Texas Center young professionals "Leo Bar" social on Thursday.

Chang needed his full attention. Medina had meticuously detailed his dish and its execution during a two-month process. A hand-drawn sketch of the plating and a typed timeline were clues that Medina and Nguyen weren't screwing around, either, with their Texas Kobe beef-inspired dish.

 Medina was inspired by how Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi treated vegetables in the cookbook Jerusalem.

As CultureMap food authority and event judge Eric Sandler explained, the trick to the luxe and expensive cut of meat is to allow its intense flavor to shine naturally. To overwhelm this delicacy with too complex of a conconction is a sin. Judges ABC Ch. 13's Katherine Whaley and Benjy's Joshua Silver agreed.

Chang, who lost power for part of the feud, prepared his Texas T Kobe strip with Korean red pepper dry rub over a dashi reduction accompanied by sake-poached shingo pears and a sharp cheddar and gruyère macaroni purse. It was all encapsulated in a hurricane of swirling applewood smoke.

Medina paced inside and out of the beautiful center, checking to ensure that his grill flames were just right for a creation that included taro and beet purée, nori yogurt, charred pickled red onions, fresh zatar and arugula.

Who earned the Golden Wok trophy?

Emcee Lily Jang of KHOU Ch. 11, who was sparkling while wearing an 18-karat rose gold Hublot timepiece with 126 diamonds (the Swiss watchmaker was a sponsor), announced that it was Medina's creativity that ultimately wowed the judges. The accomplished toque was inspired by how Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi treated vegetables in the cookbook Jerusalem.

Conceived by Asia Society director of performing arts and culture Evan Wildstein (who deserved yet another mazel tov for his recent engagement to Huda Alsheikh), the gathering welcomed some 100 young professionals including James Ozenci, Ruben Lizaola, Justin Lasiewicz, Heliz Forouzan, Christina Dang, Lien Pham, Melissa Permé, Adam Johnson and Claudia Sartori.