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Chefs and Gourmands Wanted for Urban Eating League

By Leslie Albrecht | February 21, 2013 9:32am

BROOKLYN — Move over kickball, there's a new group sport headed to Brooklyn — the Urban Eating League.

The San Francisco-based eating event is part "Top Chef," part community-building effort and part celebration of locally-sourced ingredients.

It pits five sets of chefs against each other, with each set preparing and hosting a meal in their home. Teams of eaters pay $25 a head to sample the food at the five sites, then everyone meets at the end of the day to vote on which chefs triumphed.

Cooks are judged in four categories — flavor, execution, hospitality and creativity. The overall winner takes home a trophy and gets free tickets to the next round.

Urban Eating League organizers are now looking for eaters with robust appetites and chefs to host meals in Park Slope and Gowanus. If they find enough people, they'll launch on Sunday Feb. 24 with a brunch competition, said founder Morgan Fitzgibbons.

Chefs' homes need to be within about a 15-minute walk of each other to keep the event moving. Chefs aren't told what to cook, but they must follow two basic rules — 90 percent of the ingredients should be locally-sourced, and chefs must provide a viable vegetarian option.

Fitzgibbons, an adjunct professor of environmental studies at the University of San Francisco, started the Urban Eating League in 2011. It's an offshoot of the Wigg Party, a neighborhood group Fitzgibbons founded that promotes environmental sustainability.

While the Urban Eating League is food-focused, the social dimension is what keeps people coming back for second helpings, Fitzgibbons said.

"People kind of have an insatiable appetite for it," he said. "It's not like going to a party or the movies or to a show. It's another way to have an entertaining evening and that's a revelation for folks. We like to say you get five new friends guaranteed."

Each round of the league has a theme (past themes have included "Back to School," "Love" and "The Last Supper.") Eating teams are encouraged to wear costumes to add some madcap flair to the proceedings, and the chefs are encouraged to perform skits to set the mood when their diners arrive.

Another draw for participants is the chance to peek inside strangers' apartments — a perk in real estate-obsessed cities like San Francisco and New York, Fitzgibbons said.

And unlike the burgeoning "secret supper club" scene, the Urban Eating League's $25 ticket price is designed to be affordable, Fitzgibbons said.

"We think it's really important to keep the costs as low as possible," Fitzgibbons said. "That's one of the big things that sets our event apart from other underground dinners — those are cool but it's always rich tech people who are there. [The Urban Eating League] is just for regular people."

For more information on the Urban Eating League, visit the Wigg Party website or contact Fitzgibbons directly at morgan@wiggparty.org.