Scottish Cook-Off Kicks Off Homecoming Scotland With A Bang

Nothing wrong with a little friendly competition to kick off Homecoming Scotland 2014, the yearlong celebration of all things Scottish which features more than 800 festivals, feasts, and fireworks. The Daily Meal executive editor Arthur Bovino was one of four judges who oversaw the cook-off at the Openhouse Gallery in NoLita on April 8th where the competing chefs had to use Scottish diver scallops as well as a randomly picked secret ingredient, to create an innovative dish in just 30 minutes.

 "This year, we have more than 800 events meaning that there's something happening in Scotland at least once a day," said Malcom Roughhead, the CEO of Visit Scotland. "As you know, Scottish food and drink is world-class; just think of subtle smoked salmon, our scallops picked from world class divers, and not to mention our national bread and water of life: whisky."

Check Out the Best Moments From the New York Scottish Cook-Off (Slideshow)

Jeff Bland, the 2012 Michelin-rated Scottish chef of the year and executive chef of Edinburgh's Balmoral, made a Roast Scallops with Asparagus
cauliflower puree, lemon & coriander dressing (pea shoots or watercress) with a side of cubed blood sausage (his secret ingredient). New Zealand native Matt Hardner, of the Highlands gastropub in the West Village, made his own twist on fish and chips, cooked with his secret ingredient, Scottish whisky, with a side of fried mushy peas. It was the mushy peas that sent the judges over the edge, giving Hardner the win. Most have never tasted fried mushy peas before.

"It was close, both dishes were delicate, light, and nuanced," said judge Arthur Bovino. "Chef Jeff's scallop and blood pudding were beautifully presented, but in the end we went with the playful inventiveness of Chef Matt's fried  mushy peas and the colorful sear on the scallop."

The chefs had their own takes on Scottish cooking:

Chef Jeff Bland

"I'm very simple, and it's a small country, so we cook fresh with all local ingredients and make everything taste the way it should," said chef Bland. "A guest should be able to close their eyes and taste exactly what they are putting in their mouth."

Chef Matt Hardner

"I have to play with Scottish food as much as I can here in the States," said chef Hardner. "I use as many different local ingredients as I can, throw them together to make simple delicious dishes, like I do a pork chop with scotch barrel chips. Luckily for me, this competition isn't as crazy as Chopped or Iron Chef."

See More Great Moments from the New York Scottish Chefs Cook-Off

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi