Professional chef Paul Whitaker, center, confers on the menu for the Iron Chef 2012 Competition with West Orange’s Superintendent Anthony Cavanna, right, as West Orange High School sophomore Brandon Nwafor listens in. Credits: Patricia Harris
Professional chef Frank Zdrojewski, right, coaches, from left, West Orange High School junior Donna Lopez, senior Cipheor Williams and senior Asher Carr. Credits: Patricia Harris
West Orange Students, Chefs Square Off in Iron Chef Competition
Thursday, May 24, 2012 • 11:05am
WEST ORANGE, NJ - Knives were chopping, blenders whirring and sauté pans sizzling as 24 chefs competed to win the title of Iron Chef 2012 Wednesday night in West Orange.
More than 100 people turned out to watch four teams prepare a three-course meal for judges to evaluate during the event, which took place in the cafeteria of West Orange High School. Each team consisted of several professional chefs, a West Orange administrator and two or three West Orange High School students.
The event was sponsored by Sodexo Food Services, which has provided food services to the district for 30 years. The professional chefs work for the company and came from all over the state.
Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the purchase of books for the new elementary school book rooms, according to Terry Granato, supervisor of federal/state programs at the West Orange Board of Education. The book rooms house children’s literature that teachers can use in their classrooms, she said.
Following the format of the popular “Iron Chef” television programs, each team was given a basket of ingredients to use in making their dishes. They had 15 minutes to come up with a menu and an hour to prepare their creations.
The baskets contained portobello mushrooms, Boursin cheese, frozen shrimp, macadamia nuts and quinoa.
Among the dishes the chefs created were portobello and Boursin stuffed ravioli with a light cream sauce, macadamia-crusted shrimp over quinoa pilaf with a garlic chili glaze and a julienne vegetables nest, and a wonton seasonal fruit napoleon with a chocolate drizzle topped with toasted macadamia nuts.
While chefs bustled around, spectators could roam past their stations, talk to the competitors and take photos. They could also partake of a buffet prepared by the contestants and watch entertainment provided by young singers, dancers and musicians. Baskets of goods provided by each elementary school were also raffled off.
The panel of judges was headed by Eric Levine, winner of The Iron Chef program “Chopped” and the International Restaurant Guild Chef of the Year.
As the first team presented its dishes to the judges, Superintendent Anthony Cavanna quipped, “My job was to distract the other chefs so they wouldn’t finish on time.”
He also credited the students on his team for making him look good.
Students who participated are in the high school’s consumer science program, Granato said. At least one student aspires to be a chef and will be attending a culinary program at college next year.
Cipheor Williams’s father said his son will attend Johnson & Wales in Charlotte, NC.
By the end of the evening, Team 1 was declared the winner and Paul Whitaker, food service manager/chef in East Orange, and Sam Rock, executive chef for the East Orange Board of Education, took top honors.