Kitchen Stadium it's not, but the dishes coming out of the St.John & Partners employee breakroom were focused and full of flavor. The occasion - the second annual SJ&P employees "Iron Chef" competition. At stake - the coveted Golden Whisk, and a whopping $100 cash prize for the winner. Being the connoisseurs of good taste that they are, the good folks at SJ&P invited yours truly to grace the judges table with my worldly knowledge of fine cuisine (and my rapier wit, if I do say so myself). I was honored to do the honors, so to speak.
Presiding over the judges table was event organizer and last year's Iron Chef Peter Eberbach, VP, Director of Online Marketing and Technology (who's ninja ways with goat cheese earned him the title) and two similarly food-savvy fellow employees of SJ&P.
"Cheftestants" drew secret ingredients from a predetermined list. The array of dishes and showcasing of culinary skills was mind-boggling - thank goodness there was wine to help us make sense of it all - dishes came fast and furiously from the kitchen. We enjoyed sampling a stunning array of entries, but in the end we were in close alignment on the winning fare. But enough about the process - Allez Cuisine!
Winner of the Second Annual SJ&P Iron Chef competition - and the coveted Golden Whisk -
Iron Chef Krista!
Her winning dish showcased Mushrooms as the secret ingredient.
Krista's "Portobello Concoction" was a sensuous stack of roasted eggplant, tomato, portobello mushrooms and ooey-gooey delicious cheese, streaked with a glossy slick balsamic glaze and embellished with more mushrooms, quartered artichoke hearts and fresh basil. Besides being the prettiest plate of the day - just look at that shiny sweet balsamic glaze and those beautiful fresh basil leaves inviting you to tuck in - it was fairly bursting with flavor, a hearty yet surprisingly light vegetarian main dish - I'll definitely be trying to replicate this one at home.
Other featured ingredients included Peppers, Chick Peas, and Berries. A lightened version of stuffed peppers earned second place - couscous shared the space with ground beef (you could make it with turkey) and was topped with crumbled feta.
At third place was a strawberry soup - dolloped with yogurt and accompanied by a sweet-tart salad of field greens dressed with balsamic-blueberry reduction and studded with dried blueberries, cherries and cranberries, cheese and a toasted pecan - proving that not all sweet things need to be served on a dessert plate.
Testament to its deserving the nod was that it was up against a killer-delicious dish of warm berry compote with cream cheese and home made crisp topping, served with vanilla bean ice cream.
Although it didn't finish in the money, I just can't leave the pic on the cutting room floor. It was the last thing we were served, and we had to shake ourselves out of the sugar coma in order to focus on tallying the results.
Congrats to the winners and all the contestants - and to everyone who pulled off a fun and fabulous event! Well done all! - Thanks for the invite - hope to see you again next year!
I'm fascinated by the rise of popularity of food preparation in pop-culture. Does your company or group hold a similar food related contest? Tell me about it!