April 13, 2014

Iron Chef cooking competition produces local winners

Local schools earn top honors at 2014 North Country Jr. Iron Chef event

PLATTSBURGH — Students from Northern Adirondack and Peru central schools have proven they know their way around a kitchen.

The districts took top honors at the recent North Country Jr. Iron Chef competition in Potsdam.

NAC placed first at the high-school level out of six teams, while Peru Central beat out 16 other groups to win the middle-school level contest.

Schools from Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties were invited to participate in the event, where teams were challenged to prepare and serve up tasty, yet healthy, vegetarian dishes in no more than an hour and a half.

“The judging is based on our creativity of using local foods (and) USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) commodity foods, which the government provides the school lunch programs,” said Peru Iron Chef coach Jim Testo, who teaches family and consumer science at the school.

“There has to be a price point of about $1.25 a portion, so it would be feasible to serve and be affordable.”

“The point for the competition is to create dishes that students would be willing to eat in a school setting,” added NAC’s team supervisor Tammy Malark, who teaches business education at the school. “And it also has to be able to be prepared quickly and easily by the food-service team.”

The winning groups spent a great deal of time getting ready for the competition, including testing and tweaking recipes and practicing the art of preparing their dishes on deadline.

Though coaches were involved in preparations leading up to the event, they were not allowed to assist students during the competition.

“The only thing I was allowed to do is turn on the stove,” Testo said.

NAC’s group won over the judges with “NACH your average enchiladas,” which contained portabella mushrooms, broccoli, spinach and homemade sauce.

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