Talking SCHOP! Sylvia’s Grill Skills contest

8/17/2017, 3:15 p.m.
There is a new grill champion in Harlem! They are lean, mean grilling machines at the first Sylvia’s Grill Skills ...

There is a new grill champion in Harlem! They are lean, mean grilling machines at the first Sylvia’s Grill Skills contest against some stiff competitors—their neighbors!

Coinciding with their 55th anniversary celebration, Sylvia’s threw down a glove to their neighbors: “Who’s got the skills that pays the bills on a grill?” The challengers: Red Rooster Harlem, Cove Lounge, Corner Social and babbalucci. The challenge: three rounds of grilling using whatever was in their Whole Foods bags.

I had the honor of being one of the five judges, along with representatives from Whole Foods, sponsor Coyote Outdoor Living, and Sylvia’s. We were mere feet away from the piping hot grills and could feel every moment of energy that went into the plates of food.

The first round was quail, potatoes, and okra. Not an easy protein to master, but these chefs did their thing. Some dishes were about the taste and not the presentation, some were the opposite. I thought babbalucci made their quail sing with rosemary and grilled mushrooms.

The second round was swordfish with corn chips and chilies. Now this protein can go from raw to wrong in a snap. It is all about the marinade, seasoning and cooking time. I loved Cove Lounge’s take of crusting the fish with the corn chips and Red Rooster’s wonderful spices and cookery of the fish.

The last round of the Grill Skills competition was freestyle. Chefs could flex and show a favorite dish at their restaurant or a new dish. Red Rooster laid down their intense ribs and barbecue sauce, babbalucci hit us with a simple-not-so-simple grilled oyster, and Cove Lounge presented seasonally appropriate lobster roll sliders and a gorgeous corn salad.

Corner Social laid out all of their cards with surf and turf of grilled spiny lobster and steak. It did not look pretty, but it tasted phenomenal. It also won them the title as the first champions of the Sylvia’s Grill Skills competition.

Congratulations to Corner Social, Sylvia’s, all the competitors, sponsors and organizers! I am looking forward to next year!

Happy eating and thanks for reading!

Kysha Harris is a food writer and editor, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service in NYC for more than 15 years. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook, /SCHOPnyc, and her blog, Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback?  Invitations!  Email AmNewsFOOD at Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @NYAmNewsFOOD and tag us with #SoAmNewsFOOD with your food finds!