Meet & Eat: Noah Berland, Risotto Challenge Champ

"There's really nothing that I won't eat when it is placed in front of me. That's how I ate raw horse."

20090527-meeteatnoah.jpgLast weekend, Noah Berland was a proud man when he won first place at the Risotto Challenge at Jimmy's No. 43. You may recognize him (and his suspenders) from other New York City cook-offs. Here, Noah is sporting a shirt from Ted Drewes, a very loved frozen custard joint in St. Louis. Did someone say custard-off, hmm?

Name: Noah Berland
Location: Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn
Occupation: Technical advisor

How many Brooklyn cook-offs have you entered? (Which ones, and how did you place?) The Risotto Challenge was my fifth cook-off. I did the Cookie Takedown (placed second, chocolate chip mint cookie), Chili Takedown (no place, Thai Fusion Chili), Bacon Takedown (no place, bacon brownies with bacon maple whipped creme), Tofu Takedown (won for "Worst-Looking Best-Tasting," maccha tofu brulee).

How much did you spend on risotto supplies? This was an expensive one, around $100, mostly due to the cost of fifty wild jumbo shrimp.

Besides the prize opportunity, why do you enter them? I don't know, I guess it's just a vaguely addictive act of letting your own creation be judged, and trying all the other chefs' amazing creations. I did the Cookie Takedown on a complete lark. I found out about it at 2 a.m. the night before, but have just been doing them ever since—albeit with considerably more preparation. It's also a very awesome community, where you always know you'll see someone you know from a previous cook-off.

What are some tips you can give future contestants? Hm, I'm in no way the most experienced cook-off person or the most successful so anything should be taken with a grain of salt. I think there are two ways to go into a cook-off though: do the traditional really well or be really creative in what you choose to make. More people go the creative route, which is generally more fun.

What food would your ideal food-off involve? I am a pretty huge fan of chocolate. I guess a chocolate-off would be amazing, though I think people might be a little too energized by the end.

Describe your perfect meal. Company makes any meal better, so it can't be alone and it would preferably be outside. I wouldn't call it perfect, but it would make me perfectly happy, a baguette, croissants, pain au chocolat, and some cheese. Perfectly satisfying, perfectly simple.

What food won't you eat? There's really nothing that I won't eat when it is placed in front of me. That's how I ate raw horse. Though now that I've said that, I'm probably going to be made to eat my words, which I will gladly do.

What would you like to try but haven't yet? I'm spending way too much time trying to think of something. I want to try baking some rye bread and bagels. There isn't anything stopping me, it just hasn't made the top of my long list of things to cook and bake yet.

When did you first realize you were a serious eater? I always was a huge fan of food and loved making cookies with my mother, but after my sophomore year in college, I did a co-op in Japan and started having to feed myself. It was the first time just about all of my meals were my sole responsibility. After that, I really started caring about what I was eating and thus caring about preparation.

Favorite food sites or blogs (besides Serious Eats, of course)? Okay so besides you guys, Not Eating Out in NY, and it's not a food site, but the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC often has great food guests and information about cooking.

What is your favorite meal of the day and where do you get it? This is a tough one, but I guess I'll say breakfast for dinner, especially French toast or pancakes (and I generally make them myself).