They have 90 minutes to work together as a team. The goal? Prepare a three-course meal from start to finish using ingredient guidelines.
Sound like a realty television show? Actually, the winner of this competition doesn’t earn thousands of dollars or their own restaurant. What they do earn is a good grade in the Culinary Arts class at William Blount High School.
Marty Durand, teacher of Culinary Arts, organized an Iron Chef competition so students could experience hands-on learning to reinforce the material covered in the classroom.
“I wanted to think of a way to incorporate all of this, juice it up a bit and get them involved,” Durand said during the competition April 9.
Durand said the Iron Chef competition started with the students conducting research and watching an Iron Chef episode. The assignment for their research paper was to select three fruits and create a three-course meal around the fruits.
The students who came up with the most creative recipes and the best-written papers were selected to compete in a preliminary competition. Three groups of winners were then chosen to cook their dishes for a panel of judges.
The judges of the competition were Executive Chef Jeff Counts with Blount Memorial Hospital, Executive Chef Michael Brown of the Knoxville Expo Center, Alisa Teffeteller, Blount County Vocational School Supervisor and Susan Stout, account executive with Blount Today.
Some things the judges looked for during the competition included the sanitation habits of the team. Did the members of the team use a cutting board and did they keep their meats separated from their other ingredients? The judges also scored the teams on the taste of their recipes. Did the meal have balance or was everything too sweet? Was everything ready at the right time, or did a dish get cold?
“I’ve been impressed with their skills and techniques,” Counts said. He said that he liked how the team members were following the recipe and carefully measuring the ingredients. Counts said this competition is an excellent experience for the students on how to adapt and to be flexible when things don’t go according to plan.
For example, team Tropical Frenzy, got the wrong type of shrimp for their recipe, so their recipe for Sweet and Sour Shrimp with Fruit Sauce took extra time while team members peeled and de-veined the shrimp. Also, after the preliminary competition, they modified their appetizer recipe so it had a spicier flavor, rather than a sweet taste.
“I think it’s going to be real close,” Tropical Frenzy head chef, Sarah Nolan predicted after the team completed the competition and awaited the judges’ verdict.
Each team elected a head chef who was responsible for keeping the team on task.
“The initial organization was good,” said judge Brown said. He added that the organizational skills were a good indicator of the effectiveness of the team leader who should keep everyone organized and on a time schedule.
“We have an amazing head chef who stays really positive,” Kayla McKee said of Brian McCutcheon, head chef of team Brian’s Iron Chef Angels.
In addition to the cooking competition, each team had to prepare a grocery list and a production schedule for the recipes. The groups were judged on their presentation folder, their culinary skills, sanitation practices, recipe quality, meal quality and creativity.
“This program has curriculum standards and this combines all the standards and incorporates teamwork,” said competition judge Teffeteller.
The Iron Chef winning team was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The team, Chelsea Manseill, Natasha Strain, Michaela McMurtey and head chef Kristin Palacios prepared Jalapeno Poppers, Chipotle Chicken Quesadillas, Spicy Grilled Pineapple and Strawberry Kiwi Tartlets.
The second place team was Brian’s Iron Chef Angels with Ashley Jenkins, Ashley Lanagan, Megan Queen and Kayla McKee with head chef Brian McCutcheon. They prepared a Fruit Salad with Fruit Vinaigrette, Seared Beef Tenderloin with Dijon Mustard and Herbs with Mambo Rice and Festive Napoleon for dessert.
The third place team was Tropical Frenzy with Hali Hall, Zach Cheshire, Cody Shellcross and head chef Sarah Nolan. They prepared a Spicy Fruit Salsa, Sweet and Sour Shrimp and Cheesecake Fruit Dip.
“It’s exciting to see students being able to do something they see on TV,” said Teffeteller. “They can see what it takes to be a chef.”