On Sunday afternoon, more than 20 teams competed in Austin’s first Mac and Cheeze Takedown, an event from Brooklynite Matt Timms, who for the past four years has hosted a Bacon Takedown during South by Southwest Interactive.
This year’s prompt was different: Instead of putting a creative spin on bacon, home cooks were tasked to create a macaroni and cheese that could stand out in a crowd.
Along with Hilah Johnson of Hilah Cooking and Luis Mendoza of @SouthByFreeNoms, I got to judge all twentysome odd entries, which ranged from weird (chocolate mac and cheese, mac and cheese ice cream) to mind-blowing (deep-fried mac and cheese topped with Parmesan cheese, mufaletta mac and cheese). In an effort to spread the cheesy love all around, the judges picked their three favorites and a fourth prize for most innovative, and the crowd voted for their favorites, so we had seven winners in all.
The deep fried mac and cheese from Team Little Bites of Heaven took first place from the judges’, while the Half Baked entry (mac and cheese topped with cornbread) took second. That mufaletta mac and cheese rounded out our top three, and we were happy to give Mary Helen Leonard of Mary Makes Dinner the award for most innovative for her mac and cheese ice cream, which reminded me of Paul Qui’s Cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich but better. (I think I’m the only person in Austin who doesn’t love that dessert.)
The top People’s Choice Award went to a molecular gastronomy-inspired entry called Science Bitches, whose aged Cheddars got their Velveeta-like creaminess on with the help of sodium citrate. Second place went to Team Austin Gastronauts with their entry, We’re Bringing Sexy Mac, and Nicole Matthews’ green chile mac with queso blanco won third place in the audience vote.