Battle of the buttheads

Two food vendors put their skills to the test in an event that was part competition and part collaboration.

Conor O'Brien and Stephanie Mauger pose with food plates from Crumb+Pickle.
Conor O’Brien and Stephanie Mauger pose with food plates from Crumb+Pickle. Their menu features traditional deli items made from plant-based ingredients. James Grudic/Kicker

It was epic and it was tasty. It was the Battle of the Buttheads.

Two regular vendors at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market took part in the cook-off Saturday.

Pop-up restaurants Crumb+Pickle and JewishDeli took part in the cooking competition that pitted vegan cuisine against traditional deli fare.

According to JewishDeli owner Jonathan Richler, the unusual title comes from playful ribbing between neighbouring vendors.

“She called me a butthead,” he said, motioning to Crumb+Pickle co-owner Stephanie Mauger.

Crumb + Pickle owner Conor O’Brien said the cook-off is a way to get to cook together with a friend who has a different style of cooking.

“It was the only way for us to do a pop-up together – a collab,” O’Brien said.

The two vendors put their heads together to come up with two parallel menus of dishes that could all be made vegan or meat-friendly. Items like schnitzel, ribs and gravlax sandwiches were offered out of the neighbouring vendor stalls.

O’Brien and Mauger created the menu items out of plant-based ingredients while Richler used traditional meats. Whoever sold more plates was the winner.

Cook-off or not, Richler said selling food to the community at the market is its own reward.

“I think we all won,” said Richler. “I think everyone here won.”

“I’m gluten positive. I’m meat positive, but my friends are vegan and gluten-free and everything else.”

Not a spec of food was left at either booth.

“Everything (is) gone, we have nothing,” said Richler.

“It’s wonderful.”

Although it was marketed as a battle, the cook-off was not fiercely competitive, but rather a way to work together and collaborate on a common menu.

“It’s just a pretend competition,” said Richler.

A seller of more traditional items in an ever-changing world, Richler said working alongside Crumb+Pickle is a good way to offer a wider array of food to people. Often people will ask if any menu items are vegan, or if anything is gluten free.

“I’m gluten positive. I’m meat positive, but my friends are vegan and gluten-free and everything else,” he said.

Recreating traditional foods using plant-based ingredients is something that makes O’Brien happy.

“It’s something I look forward to every week,” he said.

“It’s an outlet for me to show my creativity.”

O’Brien’s ribs are made out of crisp corn on the cob. The salmon portion of a gravlax sandwich is made out of carrot. Despite this, Crumb+Pickle were able to sell a few more plates than the JewishDeli and won the battle of the buttheads.

But, said O’Brien, he didn’t take the win too seriously.

“We’re just having fun and trying to give people something new every week,” said O’Brien.

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