It starts with 64 contenders — 32 in the flour category and an equal showing in corn. KCRW and Gustavo’s Great Tortilla Tournament is back — with its first ever Tournament of Champions — and judges Gustavo Arellano and Evan Kleiman are eating their way through stacks of qualifiers. Joining Kleiman on Team Flour is Mona Holmes of Eater LA, while Team Corn consists of tournament founder Gustavo Arellano and KCRW Communications Director and returning judge Connie Alvarez. As they narrow their way down to the Fuerte Four, Kleiman and Arellano discuss the criteria they’re looking for in their respective categories.
“It has to taste like masa; it has to taste like the earth,” Arellano says of a winning corn tortilla. He wants a muskiness and a good bend, but concedes that the best corn tortilla consists of just three ingredients — masa, water, and the lime used to treat the corn. Kleiman also finds that less is more in the flour category and is “seduced by the puff,” which signifies a pliable texture in which to roll ingredients up. Final judging of the Tournament of Champions takes place in person on Sunday, October 10 at Smorgasburg. Attendance is free. Dig into brackets, essays, photos, and more from this year’s Tortilla Tournament of Champions here.