Started in March of 2009, the Western Pennsylvania Culinary Warfare League is the brainchild of Jay and Rob. We are two amateur cooks with appetites for new and challenging food rivaled only by our love of competition, trash talking, and occasional childish one-upmanship.
The WPCWL is the fusion of these passions. We’re not sure, but we think someone made a television show similar to this. You might want to look into that for reference if you’re completely lost.
Although we consider this an ongoing project, below you can find a general explanation of how this whole thing works.
The Rules Thus Far
We have created a series of rules that we feel lead to an interesting battle. However, we are aware that a battle also primarily consists of a couple of people cooking dinner for others. We at WPCWL like being invited to dinner. So if you’re hosting, you can adjust the other rules however you like. These are our suggestions.
1. A battle is between two contestants.
2. A battle consists of 3 courses per contestant. These courses are presented in a staggered manner. Contestants must work out the order of presentation with each other. If no agreement can be made, each course’s order will be decided by flip of a coin.
3. All courses feature a secret ingredient. That ingredient must at least be present in each dish.
4. The secret ingredient is picked at random by the contestants on the day of the battle. The drawing typically takes place late morning or early afternoon. Or it can be picked in advance (but kept secret) by a third party who wants to make a trophy or just can’t help himself. The point is that the contestants do not know the secret ingredient until the day of the battle. After drawing, contestants shop for ingredients and cook.
4a. Contestants may agree to remove one or more secret ingredients from the draw on the basis that said ingredient[s] is [are] out of season. This is encouraged. Look below for the list of possible secret ingredients.
5. Contestants are allowed to bring their own cookware, favorite ingredients, and pre-made foodstuffs to a battle. In general, these utensils and ingredients have been considered available to either contestant for use, but a contestant may reserve some tools or goodies for him/herself if they wish and state so clearly in advance.
6. During cooking, a contestant is entitled to half the available cooking space and surfaces. Any more than that must be requested of the other contestant, as early as possible. It is expected that contestants will allow one another an extra burner or such as needed if they are not using it. Tight space demands coordination and cooperation between the bitterest of enemies.
7. All attendees of a battle may be judges. Or the contestants may exclude (tactfully) some attendees – usually because of dietary restrictions of some sort – provided the contestants agree on the exclusion. Or the contestants may agree to handpick certain attendees from a larger crowd to judge. At least three judges are necessary. In case of disagreement, all attendees will act as judges. The contestants do not judge each other’s food (officially, anyway).
8. Judges are to score each dish individually on the following criteria: 1-10 points for taste 1-5 points for originality 1-5 points for presentation 1-5 points for use of the secret ingredient After battle, point totals are added up for each dish and each contestant to determine a winner.
Some of these subjects have been a source of debate. Others are rules by default. For the time being, contestants are to work out an agreement before each battle.
1. Location. It’s understandable that not everyone feels equipped to host a WPCWL battle in their kitchen. If you want to compete but your kitchen will not do, there are options. Jay’s place has been available for previous battles, and will likely be available for future battles. Rob’s house is also available (though it’s in Waynesburg). Just ask.
2. The internet. We want the recipes to be original and formulated on the day of the contest. But at the same time, we don’t want to serve something awful to our friends. So, we have agreed that we would each be able to use the internet specifically as a resource for ratios when baking or making dough. And only for that. We agreed on this because the two of us are equally weak bakers. Other cooks may come to other agreements. Usage is expected to be as little as needed, and contestants are expected to feel bad about it.
3. Originality of recipes. It’s encouraged but unenforceable. Of course, that’s not to say contestants should not be influenced by classic dishes or other published recipes. Influence is good. Recipe cribbing is bad. Let your conscience guide you.
4. Time. There has been no specific time limit for preparation of dishes. It is expected that guests will not suffer especially long delays, but that is all that’s been guiding us. Anyone who wants to apply a specific time limit to their contest is welcome. However, to any non-professional cook, we suggest you compete first. Sharing a small kitchen while preparing multiple complex courses for a small party of guests is harder than expected. It seems to take a while to adjust to that, and we suspect a strict time limit would have seen us presenting nothing at all for some courses in the first couple battles.
5. Dessert. It’s not required. Some ingredients don’t lend themselves to it (asparagus sorbet, anyone? Well, now that I think about it, maybe…) But you’re lame if you don’t try it. Judges are encouraged but not required to penalize a contestant who chooses not to make dessert and to reward a contestant who makes an unlikely ingredient into a dessert that is enjoyable.
6. Money. So far each contestant has paid for their own shopping. There has been no limit on spending, but we have agreed that blatant attempts to ‘buy’ a victory are in poor taste. But we have discussed options for dealing with the financial issue. Spending limits in addition to income-based contributions to total food costs would make for a very level playing field. On the other hand, spending limits could negatively affect the quality of the meal or hinder a contestant’s vision. Contestants must work this out for themselves at this point. We’ll update this rule if it starts to cause problems.
Secret Ingredient List
Optional Secret Ingredients:
Love (each contestant picks his/her own secret ingredient for the battle)
Hate (each contestant picks his/her opponent’s secret ingredient for the battle)
Additional secret Ingredient suggestions are welcome. We will try to replace ingredients that have already been used.