‘Iron Chef’ competition leads to sweet success

Anjali Bhat

Leadership’s Student Recognition commission hosted the Iron Chef cooking competition modeled after the famous Food Network show, on Dec. 8. If foods had several components, such as a filling or a garnish, teams were allowed to prepare at home, but assembly and presentation of the final dish had to be done in under 20 minutes in the academic court. Here’s a look at the six teams that hoped to claim the ultimate title of Iron Chef by using the secret ingredient — peppermint — to their advantage. 

Team: Sizzelz

Chefs: Sophomores Alexandra Case, Hannah Haensel, Sarah Lim and science teacher Pooya Hajjarian

Menu: Peppermint-chocolate Rice Krispy pops

Recipe for success:

As the other teams frantically rushed to finish their dishes, the members of Sizzlez carefully arranged their Rice Krispy pops on a platter covered with marshmallows. With a well-planned presentation and careful forethought, the team managed to beat the clock and put out an aesthetically-pleasing product which brought smiles to the judges’ faces.

Lim prepared the Rice Krispy balls at home prior to the competition, which left the team with little to do other than melting the chocolate, dipping the pops in the chocolate and covering their creation with crushed peppermint or edible sparkles.

“It’s a fun way to bond with people,”  Haensel said. “We’ll forever be team Sizzelz!”

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Team: Alikkikan

Chefs: Juniors Jeremy Kan, Alice Lee, Rikki Lee and math teacher Jennifer Pazirandeh

Menu: Oreo peppermint parfait

Recipe for success:

When junior Alice Lee approached juniors Rikki Lee and Jeremy Kan about participating in the cook-off, they readily agreed. Alice is an avid baker and wanted to participate in the competition, but for Rikki and Kan, both of whom had little to no experience with making desserts prior to the event, the competition was not without its share of struggles.

The team first decided to make macarons but came across a few complications.

“This wasn’t the original plan,” Rikki said. “We ended up improvising because we messed up a lot.”

They discovered that another team, MasterChef Seniors, was making macarons, so they decided instead to make a truffle-like dish using cream cheese. But when the team mixed the cream cheese and whipped cream, they found it to be too watery and instead put the mixture in cups to make parfait for the day of the competition.  

Even with the unexpected detour, the members of Alikkikan enjoyed their experience as it gave them a chance to bond. The team even hopes to participate in the competition next year; as Kan enthusiastically responded, “Of course!”

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Team: Boyz2Chefs

Chefs: Sophomores Itay Barylka, Kenji Kadokura, Gautham Kovvuru and English teacher David Clarke

Menu: Peppermint meringue cookies

Recipe for success:

After receiving news of the secret ingredient two weeks earlier, the members of Boyz2Chefs immediately began to choose a recipe for the competition.

“We planned beforehand by having a conference call discussing a bunch of recipes,” Barylka said.

He and his teammates selected a recipe for peppermint meringues and prepared the cookies at home. Knowing they would have limited time, they left only the frosting and topping for the day of the competition. Still, Boyz2Chefs found themselves scrambling.

“This time, we did some of it at the last minute, and things took more time than they should have,” Kovvuru said. “I really want to participate again [ … ] Next time, I think we should prepare even more.”

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Team: MasterChef Seniors

Chefs: Seniors Stephanie Chang, Monica Oh, Donovan Phua and English teacher Vanessa Otto

Menu: Peppermint macarons, peppermint hot chocolate and mint chocolate chip pancakes

Recipe for success:

Midway through the competition, Chang began to fry the pancake batter on a small, hand-held pan as students watched anxiously behind her. As one of the three teams with hot food requiring on-site cooking — the others being Merri-Mints and Sizzelz — MasterChef Seniors needed adequate supplies and preparation.

“We practiced at my house actually,” Oh said. “[Chang and Phua] came over and we went through practice rounds to measure how much of each ingredient we would need and to make sure we wouldn’t mess up too much. We organized who would focus on what, and we were able to finish under 20 minutes.”

According to Oh, the group was able to create a far better presentation than she had originally expected, and they received third place overall for their dishes.

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Team: Lord of the Fries

Chefs: Seniors Alana Lee, Gina Limón, Celine Mol and science teacher Jenna Smith

Menu: Shrimp and chicken spring rolls, strawberry mint spritzer and white chocolate mousse

Recipe for success:

With the secret ingredient of peppermint, this year’s Iron Chef competition came with an abundance of holiday-inspired sweets.

At Limón’s suggestion, Lord of the Fries successfully managed to incorporate mint into a savory ethnic dish — Vietnamese spring rolls. Though she claims to have relatively little prior experience in cooking, Mol believes this made their entreé unique when compared to those of other teams, which helped them place second in the competition.

“[Lee and Limón] taught me a lot,” Mol said. “Before this, I didn’t even know what a spring roll was, and now I can make them.”

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Team: Merri-Mints

Chefs: Math and science teacher Debbie Frazier, science teacher Andrew Goldenkranz, English teacher Jessica Kaufman and guidance counselor Shari Schussel

Menu: Watermelon-feta salad, bruschetta, pea and mint soup, homemade pasta, lamb and peppermint patties

Recipe for success:

Despite having little time on their hands to prepare, Merri-Mints — the team of teachers who participated in the Iron Chef — pulled together a six-course meal featuring dishes which represented the different seasons of the year.

“It was hectic and stressful to plan. We didn’t talk face-to-face, which was funny,” Frazier said. “We did it all through e-mail.”

Each teacher on the team selected a dish that he or she was comfortable making and presented the final platter to the panel of judges. Schussel, who made peppermint patties for the dessert course of the Merri-Mints’ menu, greatly enjoyed the experience and hopes to participate again in the future. 

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The judges have spoken. The winner is…

The Merri-Mints!

For the second year in a row, the team of teachers took home the first-place prize at the competition, a $10 Whole Foods gift card for each member of the team. This year’s judging panel featured English teacher Michelle Balmeo, history teacher Andrew Sturgill and principal April Scott. According to Scott, the main criteria that the entries were judged on was taste and presentation. Scott felt that the Merri-Mints managed to provide a great variety of foods, from the fruit to the pasta to the meat. The six-course extravaganza not only won over the judges’ hearts, but also their stomachs.

Schussel was thrilled with the victory, smiling and joking, “I’m so overjoyed you know, I just got a big check in my hand, and I can’t wait to use my $10,000 at Whole Foods!”

As for Scott, she greatly enjoyed watching all the participants and was impressed with their creativity and preparation. Scott’s favorite part about the competition was watching everybody work together and cheer each other on.

“I hope they do it again,” Scott said. “… And ask me to judge!”