Soapin’ season: Scenes from the first-ever dishwashing duel at The Diamond

All photos by K. Hartnett / Brokelyn

Just like a wrestling match, but cleaner. All photos by K. Hartnett / Brokelyn

Dishwashers: they clean among us, unseen.

Whether you’re a concerned roommate tidying up at home, a guest helping out a party host after things clear out or a professional sudser working back-of-house at a restaurant, you know that “doing the dishes” is thankless endeavor. It’s tedious, silent and occasionally gross, depending on whose dishes you’re doing. And yet, the need for proper dishwashing becomes absolutely clear once you’ve pulled a plate from your cabinet and seen the remnants of your boyfriend’s lasagna from Tuesday night.

The best dishwashers marry finite technique with maximum efficiency to get the job done. And this past Sunday, The Diamond Bar in Greenpoint set out to find the best of the best at a Brooklyn Dishwashing Duel.

Billed as “a high-octane domestic event staged in the glory of the only beer bar left in the once-thriving neighborhood of Greenpoint,” The Diamond’s dishwashing duel pitted neighborhood restaurants Le Gamin and Motorino against one another, and each restaurant put forth their champions for a three-round battle that would measure the dishwashers’ skill, efficiency and artistry.

While the competing teams got into pre-match mentality, dirty dishes from the morning’s $5 brunch were rounded up and placed in separate dish soakers. Host Jamie Hook kicked off the event by sharing a heartbreak and trumph-filled story of his time as a dishwasher in Maine, canonizing the unsung heroes of the service industry.

“Without dishes we’re not having a meal, we’re just having food,” said Hook. 

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Hosts Hook and Malbert (left); judges David Bookbinder, Dave Pollack and Alex Delaney (right).

Each team included two members and two alternates in case of injury. A stable of fans and colleagues from each restaurant cheered on their representatives from the bleachers. The exhibition was co-hosted by organizer Hook, in a smart tuxedo, and Harv Malbert (a.k.a. Billy Bouchard) in more informal attire. While Hook presided, Malbert offered up the more colorful commentary about team motivation, strategy and, what seemed to this observer, his rather messy personal life.

The opening ceremonies began with introductions to the judges and contestants, followed by a coin toss. Winning the toss, Matthew Palombino from Motorino got first pick of scrubbing implement, making a bold choice by selecting a scrub brush instead of the standard two-sided sponge. Le Gamin representative Jvon Antony had first pick for detergent and opted for old stand-by Palmolive, balking at the organic Method detergent.

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Antony dishes it out.

Antony dishes it out for Le Gamin.

With a thrown plate signifying the beginning of the battle, opponents were off! Round one was a soapy mess as Antony and Palombino began grabbing the dirty brunch plates to see who could wash the greater number of dishes in the allotted time of five minutes. Antony, who had the benefit of a longer wingspan than his rival, commanded the lead early on. That is, until Palombino began using some of the forks and knives from brunch to speed his scrapping.

Following each round, judges surveyed the field, awarding points not only for effective cleaning but also for station cleanliness, vocal support from the crowd and innovative technique.

 

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The Wring Girl announcing each round.

The Wring Girl announcing each round.

For round two, the prep dish — bane of any dishwashers existence — was the star of the show. Using tools from the previous round and a bit more elbow grease than previously needed, contestants were made to clean a single, unsoaked casserole dish. This round was less splash and more skill. Antony used his left arm to hold the dish while his right did the actual scraping and sudsing, while Palomino used the discarded soapy water from the previous round to loosen any burnt food remnants before getting down to business.

The Dishwasher Duel isn’t a standout event in The Diamond’s repertoire; the bar has long been known for its roster of creatively-themed local events. They’ve hosted staring contests, pancake breakfasts with owner Dave Pollack’s parents manning the griddle, and an elaborate “Seven Minutes in Heaven” this past Valentines Day, wherein couple could purchase an abridged dream date of champagne, oysters and butler service in the bar’s backyard gondola.

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Like father, like son.

Like father, like son.

Before the third and final round of the duel, sweat on their brows and soap on their shirts, opponents retired to the cheering section and tapped in their alternates. Jackie Hanson stepped in for Le Gamin and, in what must be some sort of violation of child labor laws, Palombino’s son Francesco took his place on the battlefield. The final round was a test of artistry: opponents were handed a smudged wineglass and a fresh towel, and were directed to soap the stemware into a streak-free masterpiece that Thomas Keller would be proud of.

Once the rounds were up, the judges surveyed the final carnage cleanage for the last time while fans refilled their glasses (with new respect for how clean they were).

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The trophy.

The trophy read, “Best Dishwasher in Brooklyn.”

In a true Steve Harvey move, moments after Hook declared Le Gamin the winner he realized  that he had called the wrong team. With only a single point difference between the two teams anyway, a bonus round was suggested; but Palombino, in a great show of sportsmanship, deferred to the initial pronouncement and conceded the win to Le Gamin.

After challenging another neighborhood joint, Casette, to face off against them in the next duel, teammates Antony and Hanson sidled up the bar to enjoy some well-deserved lager, basking in a glory so rarely given to the folks who do the dishes.

For more good, clean fun, follow Katy on Twitter: @katyhartnett

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