Chefs batter each other in waffle cook-off

Edward Lee, visiting chef from Kentucky, adds jelly to his dish as Mike Lata, chef at FIG, prepares his dish during the Waffle House Smackdown on Saturday at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival.

If ever the cooking thing doesn’t work out, Edward Lee and Ashley Christensen can always do stand-up comedy.

Neither of the guest chefs — he from 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Ky., and she from Pooles Diner in Raleigh, — was awarded the “golden waffle” in the Waffle House Smackdown Saturday in Marion Square. But as for laughs, they completely won the crowd over.

The two joined local chefs Mike Lata of FIG and Michelle Weaver of Charleston Grill during a 90-minute “competition” that was part of the 2013 BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival. The women cooked against each other in round one, the men in round two, and a final round determined the winner.

Bon Appetit Editor Andrew Knowlton egged on the action as host of the event.

Moments before her 10-minute faceoff with Weaver, Christensen addressed the four judges seated at a table below the raised stage. “I just want to say, you guys look great today,” she deadpanned.

Lee, wearing a paper yellow-and-black Waffle House side cap like the others, came on the stage for introductions nursing a Pabst tallboy. He stoked his bad-boy demeanor by not playing by the “rules,” at one point dumping grape jelly and jalapenos on his hash browns.

And when he put dry toast on his omelet plate, a voice in the audience called out, “It’s not buttered!”

“Oh, don’t you worry about that,” Lee muttered as he grabbed a ladle, dipped it to overflowing with melted butter and poured it on. The crowd crowed with delight.

The two local chefs weren’t too shabby in the laugh department either.

When Christensen boasted to the judges that her toast was facing the eggs on her plate “in the Waffle House way,” Weaver delivered a zinger. “I was told to make sure there were hash browns, not hash tans,” Weaver retorted.

Lata won the final challenge — “Pull one bacon; drop one hash brown in a ring; order over light plate; waffle” — and picked up Waffle House’s ultimate title, “Master Blaster.”

“What’s the prize?” asked Knowlton. “Does he get to take Ed home with him?”

Christina Jackson and three other women, all from North Carolina, laughed all the way through. They were spending the day in the festival’s Culinary Village.

They arrived in town Friday and were planning to return today.

“This is my second year,” said Jackson, 39. “I had so much fun last year that I had to come back and bring some new friends.”