"There's a couple things out there that America can unanimously agree on," says Matt Timms, the creator of the competitive food event The Takedown. One of those things is mac 'n' cheese, the kid-friendly pasta dish that will be the focus of this Sunday's Takedown in Los Angeles.
The Takedown is a New York-based renegade food competition that started as a chili cook-off and has since evolved into a traveling, nation-wide spectacle where amateur chefs bring their best dishes to the table for others to try.
By design, there are very few rules to The Takedown: Anyone can participate by bringing a dish they've made themselves - in this case, a mac 'n' cheese dish - and everyone can judge. There are three appointed judges, but there's also an audience vote on the best dish. At this Sunday's L.A. event, the grazing period begins at 2 p.m. at the Bootleg Theatre and runs until 4 p.m. when the judges and the audience takes a vote on the three best homemade mac 'n' cheese.
Why mac 'n' cheese? "It's just really fun and fairly cheap to make. Everyone can agree that it's the yummiest thing to make," Timms said by phone from his home in Brooklyn, where the Takedown began more than a decade ago. Timms had been competing with the International Chili Society, but soon grew bored of their stringent rules (beans and pasta are forbidden in the chili, for example) and wanted to create a more radical, all-inclusive alternative. So he invited some friends to get together and make their own "kitchen sink chili," thus founding the first Chili Takedown in 2003.
He's since followed up the Brooklyn Chili Takedown with events like the Brooklyn Meatball Takedown, the Detroit Bacon Takedown, the Portland Ice Cream and Hot Sauce Takedown, the L.A. Avocado Takedown and the forthcoming World's Biggest Jerkoff - which is a jerky competition, of course.
But professional chefs need not apply - this competition is for hobbyists only. "I've got this thing about [professional] chefs. I don't like them," says Timms, a self-proclaimed starving actor who now calls himself a starving event producer. "Home cooks are a different breed."
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There are currently about 17 home cooks signed up for this weekend's event, but Timms is still seeking recruits. The more chefs, the more mac 'n' cheese, is his philosophy. He's also looking for a third judge, who will help crown the first, second and third place dishes. Winners will receive Cuisinart food processers.