Chris Cote reports on the first ever "Cook or Kook" cooking challenge that pitted pro surfers Benji Weatherley against Taylor Knox. It all went down at California’s Carlsbad Hilton Oceanfront a few weeks ago, and when the surfers hit the kitchen, the whole thing almost went up in flames.

Usually when competing, surfers have to worry about waves and wiping out—that is, unless they're competing in the kitchen. As in the "Cook or Kook" kitchen. The headline event this year at the First Annual NorthEats Food Festival presented by Baker and Olive was the first-ever “Cook or Kook” cooking competition, which pitted two "Momentum Generation" legends against each other in a timed cooking contest. Taylor Knox and Benji Weatherley were paired up with a chef each: Weatherley with Doug Moric from Biergarden in Encinitas and Knox with John Park from Leucadia—two North County San Diego hot spots. The Cook Or Kook contest and the NorthEats festival was created by Nino Camilo, founder of the world-famous I Love Musubi Poke Fest, to spotlight the amazing food and growing culinary scene of the North County area.

Taylor Knox almost loses his mustache. Photo by Zach Cordner/NorthEats

Taylor Knox almost loses his mustache. Photo by Zach Cordner/NorthEats

The rules of the cook-off were simple: The chefs could only cut and consult, and the surfers had to do all the preparation and plating. Another twist was that the ingredients were a surprise. Provided by Whole Foods Del Mar, the protein, veggies, and spices came in a sealed bag to be opened as the 30-minute timer started.

Taylor Knox and Benji Weatherley give each other a good-luck hug to start the event. Photo by Zach Cordner/NorthEats

Taylor Knox and Benji Weatherley give each other a good-luck hug to start the event. Photo by Zach Cordner/NorthEats

Burners flamed up and the cooks went to work in front of a crowd of 400 hungry festivalgoers who delighted in watching Weatherley and Knox fumbling and laughing through their respective dishes. At one point, Knox almost burned off his mustache! The chefs stood close by with instruction for the surfers on how to make their chosen dishes, while hosts Chris Cote and Nino Camilo prodded the trash talk and banter between the two competitors. When the buzzer rang, both surfers had successfully plated their dishes, and they both actually looked and tasted amazing. The judges, including pro surfer Damien Hobgood and his wife, Charlotte, had a tough call. At the end of the tasting, it was Knox and Fish 101 taking the title of "Cook," while Weatherley suffered defeat and found himself wearing the "Kook" apron.

Benji Weatherley starts in with the trash talk. Photo by Zach Cordner/NorthEats

Benji Weatherley starts in with the trash talk. Photo by Zach Cordner/NorthEats

"That was super fun and I already want to do it again," said Knox. "I'll challenge Benji to a rematch right now!"

Weatherley was ready for Knox's banter. "We all know Taylor's been training for this for three months," he laughed. "That was awesome, although it would have been a lot funnier if Taylor would have burned off his handlebar mustache."

Benji Weatherley's rare serious face; photo by Zach Cordner/NorthEats

Benji Weatherley's rare serious face; photo by Zach Cordner/NorthEats

Congrats to Knox on his big win and to Weatherley for taking his "kook" prize with style and grace. Both surfers did awesome, and nobody got sick from the food they made; it was a win-win for everybody! We'll just have to wait and see who the next two chefs to compete in Cook or Kook will be: surfer vs. skater? Vert vs. street? Skier vs. snowboarder? You tell us who you'd like to see in the kitchen in the next Cook or Kook faceoff.

At the end of the cook-off, it was Team Taylor Knox walking away with the "Cook" crown. Photo by Zach Cordner/NorthEats

At the end of the cook-off, it was Team Taylor Knox walking away with the “Cook” crown. Photo by Zach Cordner/NorthEats

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