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The Ballston Restaurant Challenge has already been rife with drama as eight semifinalists competed for the chance to win a lease in the neighborhood with a year of free rent, a $245,000 interest-free loan, and other free legal and financial services. (Read last week’s Y&H column about how the contest was not quite what it promoted itself to be.) Now two days before a final cook-off challenge, Del Campo and Taco Bamba chef Victor Albisu has dropped out of the competition, the Washington Business Journal reports. The paper also writes that the cook-off has been cancelled, and Albisu’s fellow finalist, Christiana Campos, will be named the winner at the Ballston BID’s June 23 annual meeting for her Spanish tavern concept Casita.

Last week, when I tried to interview Albisu about the competition, his publicist Jen Resick Williams told me the chef wouldn’t be able to comment because he was in “the midst of working out some things related to the Restaurant Challenge.” She wouldn’t elaborate on what that meant. She tells the Washington Business Journal: “After careful consideration, he decided that he didn’t want to move forward with the contest and trying to acquire the space.” No specific reason was provided.

Resick Williams wouldn’t comment to WBJ about whether the decision had anything to do with the Mike Isabella‘s announcement last week that he planned to open a Mexican cantina called Pepita in Ballston. Albisu also proposed opening a Mexican eatery called Bombazo as part of the Restaurant Challenge. He told Washingtonian a month ago that he planned to pursue a restaurant in Ballston whether he won or lost. It’s unclear if that’s still the case.

I’ve also reached out to Resick Williams, Albisu, and Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone for additional details and will update if I have anything new to report.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery