Austin chefs Amir Hajimaleki and Dennis Van, of District Kitchen + Cocktails and Oasthouse Kitchen + Bar, came out on top after three rounds of competition in the new Netflix show Sugar Rush. From winning their episode of the series, which debuted today, Friday, July 13, the duo earned a $10,000 prize.
Hajimaleki, who is executive chef and owner of both restaurants, and Van, who is the pastry chef to both, competed in science fiction-themed challenges, judged by industry experts Adriano Zumbo and Candace Nelson and actor Colin Hanks.
“I was excited for the challenge of stepping outside my comfort zone and into pastry,” said Hajimaleki. “Dennis has been with me through every event since we opened District five years ago, so I was especially excited that we got to experience this competition together.”
For the first round, the pair created a zombie-themed dessert of a chocolate, coffee, bacon cupcake topped with maple brown sugar buttercream frosting and a cocoa soil finish. In the second round, with the theme “science experiment,” they created a pear and pumpkin verrine made with 40-second sponge cake, pumpkin mousse, and cranberry ginger caviar served over dry ice and injected with a pear fluid gel.
For the final and most challenging round, with the prompt “alien,” they created a two-foot vanilla bean cake with strawberry orange jam and lemon buttercream frosting coated with a white chocolate galaxy mirror glaze. Van shared: “I felt pretty confident in the first two rounds, but then we got to the third round when we had to make the full cake and had a little mishap with the galaxy glaze.”
Taking a risk by making the galaxy glaze paid off, as the judges praised the overall creative use of ingredients and depth of flavors.
To celebrate, both District and Oasthouse will feature their zombie cupcake creation, paired with a glass of prosecco for $10.
And how do the duo plan to spend their prize money? Hajimaleki plans to donate some, and spoil his mom and girlfriend with the rest. Van poignantly told Eater, “Ask me that three years ago and I would have told you about my plans to go spend it in Vegas, but now, I plan on sending my parents on a vacation and putting the rest into savings. Growing up is fun.”