Possums, we were as surprised as anyone to learn of Antonia Lofaso's deadly reputation as the Black Hammer. And now comes independent confirmation from Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic for our local rag, the LA Weekly. Gold recently served as a judge in a cook-off between Lofaso and Los Angeles chef Fred Eric at the Taste of the Nation benefit for Meals on Wheels, and this is what went down:
Lofaso, after raising her hands over her head to acknowledge the crowd, somehow brought her chef’s knife down into Eric’s hand, where it plunged almost to the bone.
It was not an intentional move, at least no more intentional than the Celtic knee that found its way into Lamar Odom’s groin in game five of the NBA finals, but while Eric went to get taped up, Lofaso set to work on her competition dish, sautéing mushrooms, pan-roasting duck. After 15 minutes had passed, Eric strode to the front of the stage, stripped out of his street clothes to reveal a Lakers uniform underneath, and announced that he was going to prepare a raw-food dish with the provided juicer. “Eat it raw,” he said.
The crowd groaned; Eric seemed doomed. Lofaso appeared to be almost done cooking, and her food smelled great. Eric, tossing poblanos and habaneros into the juicer like so many carrots, had barely started, and what was coming out of his machine looked like sludgy wheatgrass juice. But when the buzzer sounded, and the first plates were put in front of us, Lofaso’s fresh spring rolls turned out to be the sort of thing you can find at any Asian small-plates café in Los Angeles, competently assembled but without a special spark. Eric brought out one of the most beautiful composed salads I have ever tasted, small lettuces and bright vegetables and willowy stalks of wild asparagus arranged into a rustic still-life, a Cornell Box of a salad held together by a brilliantly spicy lime-chile vinaigrette. He had literally spotted his opponent 15 minutes and competed with one arm behind his back, and he still won a unanimous decision.
Nice try, Antonia, possum. Just remember for next time: do it when there aren't so many witnesses around. It's Law & Order: Criminal Intent 101.