For the crowd packed into Templeton Secondary's cafeteria for the Iron Chef Competition on Jan 26, the experience was like stepping onto the set of a Food Network production.
The cafeteria was transformed into a TV studio decorated with banners with the names of competitors while the school's top culinary students, dressed in their chef's whites, performed their culinary antics on a brightly lit stage. Templeton's Jeff Derkson, himself a former "Iron Chef," hosted the event.while roving TV cameras captured all the culinary action and projected it on screens.
From left: Margo Murphy passes out samples for the audience. Jeff Derkson kept the audience informed and entertained.
This year, nine teams of three had one hour to prepare an appetizer, entr�e and dessert dish that incorporated this year's secret ingredient, the humble potato.
"Believe it or not potatoes are one of the hardest ingredients we've had - and we've had chocolate as the secret ingredient in the past," said Margo Murphy, Templeton's culinary arts teacher. This year's recipes included several varieties of potatoes including sweet and multi coloured potatoes. Murphy said her students have been busy developing their recipes since last November.
A panel of celebrity judges were given the daunting but delicious task of sampling and judging 27 dishes including an appetizer, entree and dessert.. Judges included award-winning chef Rob Feenie; Superintendent of Schools Steve Cardwell; Glenn Cho, from the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Chinatown Lions Club; and John Colebourn a columnist for the Province newspaper.
Iron Chef America winner Rob Feenie (left) and Superintendent of Schools, Steve Cardwell were among the judges.
Feenie who has helped open doors for Vancouver's culinary arts students by providing internships and employment at local Cactus Club restaurants, was the first Canadian to win on the TV show Iron Chef America in 2005, by defeating Chef Masaharu Morimoto. As the "food concept architect" for the Cactus Club chain of restaurants, Feenie returned as a judge for this year's competition and was once again pleased with the quality of the food he tasted.
During the competition, Chinatown Lions Club board member Cho, whose daughter is a Templeton grad, commented that the food was delicious and of the quality he'd expect from fine dining restaurants, a testament to the hard work and passion of the culinary arts students.
At the end of the competition there could be only one winning team: Adam Khan, Julian Poblete and Raymond Wong. Their appetizer was a warm potato salad served with a spicy crab cake and seared prawns. For a main course they made potato-crusted sablefish with celeriac potato mash, and for dessert a purple potato milkshake, with sweet potato pancake.
Second place finalists Luis Aguilar, Kalen Leung and Samuel Moses prepared a main entree of potato ravioli stuffed with rabbit. Third place went to Alex Mairena, Jesse Ong and Tricia Pacheco for their herb-crusted lamb tenderloin.
For all the students the experience was invaluable in preparing them for the fast paced work in the kitchens of Vancouver's top restaurants. Templeton's culinary arts program creates opportunities for work experience which often lead to careers in the field.