Scene march 15, 2017

Page 28

Mac ‘n’ Cheese Throwdown Crowns Adega King Cheese By Rachel Hunt


hat happens when you combine classic comfort food with high-end ingredients? You get an award-winning Lobster Grilled Cheese Mac ‘n’ Cheese, conceptualized by Nelly Buleje, executive chef of Adega representing the Metropolitan at the 9 (2017 East Ninth St., 216-239-1200, during the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids Mac ‘n’ Cheese Throwdown on Feb. 25 at Red Space. It was a natural marriage, since macaroni and cheese is one of the best, most indulgent carb-loaded dishes that can be spun into sophisticated offerings. The inaugural event attracted entries from Trentina, Greenhouse Tavern, Southside, Melt, Hodges, and Pier W among an array of other bars and restaurants from Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs. Peppered pancetta, duck, and smoked Gouda were among fancier additions; deep fried mac and cheese balls also made their way onto the menu. There were 1,500 people in attendance for the fundraiser, including the 20 restaurants competing against one another to make the tastiest, cheesiest pasta of them all. The Judge’s Choice award was decided by Dante Boccuzzi, pasta impresario; Anna Harouvis, clean eating advocate and chef; and Sam Rosenfeld of W.A.G.S. 4 Kids, after a blind taste testing. The People’s Choice award was voted on by guests who had sampled at least 10 of the entrees. “What we never anticipated was a total sweep by Metropolitan at the 9, showing utter dominance in both categories,” says Sera


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Nelly Buleje, executive chef of Adega Nelson, director of development and special events for W.A.G.S. 4 Kids, a non-profit that provides mobility and autism service animals to children with disabilities in Northeast Ohio. They were able to raise over $50,000 for the charitable program through ticket sales for the event. Chef Buleje has held several positions within Metropolitan at the 9 after a decade of fine dining and hospitality industry experience. Introduced to cooking by his grandmother at age 13, he creamed the competition with a kind of comfort food that must have been part of his repertoire since childhood. While he was raised in the United States, Buleje’s parents are of Guatemalan and Mexican descent. Buleje has traveled widely from Peru to the Caribbean and recently to the Philippines. He brings a culturally infused cooking style to whatever he does, from teaming up in the back of a food truck in South Carolina to heading one of the top kitchens in Cleveland. Buleje’s menu at Adega is rounded out with Mediterranean-inspired seafood including Portuguese charred octopus, scallops, Chilean

sea bass, mussels, and jumbo shrimp, so it was no surprise to see the chef use sweet and meaty lobster to get a leg up on his competition. Metropolitan at the 9 was also represented by sous chef Marvi Lou Magbanua Mapa, Paty Zamarippa, and Reina Marica. This isn’t the first competition Buleje has won with Adega. He was selected as champion of Scene’s “Iron Fork” challenge presented at Flavor in December, and has received numerous culinary awards, including first and second place in Iron Chef Milwaukee, first place in the Taste of the Season Judges’ Choice, and has been a featured in Southern Cooking. The Metropolitan at the 9 also received AAA’s Four Diamond award for the first time in January 2017. They are among only three hotels in Cleveland to earn the prestigious recognition. Runners up included Two Buck’s “The Rancher” Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Southside’s Chorizo Mac ‘n’ Cheese in the Judge’s Choice category. Wild Eagle Saloon’s Deep Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese Balls and Deagan’s Kitchen and Bar’s Smokey & Spicy Mac ‘n’ Cheese took home the silver and bronze respectively in the People’s Choice category.