Tag Archives: Iron Chef

Iron Chef 2015 at the Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention

17 Sep
Final plate by Chef Casey Copeland

Final winning plate by Chef Casey Copeland of SO Restaurant & Bar in Little Rock.

Iron Chef Arkansas! One of the coolest competitions all year. It’s time for some food photos and feats of culinary strength. If you’re unfamiliar, this competition takes place on the floor of the annual  Arkansas Hospitality Association Vendor Showcase and Convention. Eight chefs of AHA member restaurants, clubs or catering operations from across the state are invited to compete. Through 40-minute heats over two days, the chefs must use the ingredients of a mystery basket and show their skills and creativity.

But first, a mea culpa…

I admit it, I haven’t blogged much lately. The blogging experts always say not to acknowledge it or apologize for it, but it’s just true. Things are going well for arfoodjobs.com, and I’ve spent my time and energy there. (Plus there’s a whole burnout thing with food blogging for so many years.)

All that to say, I’m sitting right now at the Arkansas Hospitality Association Vendor Showcase and Convention, as I have for many years now. The first day of the show, yesterday, I spent my time at the arfoodjobs.com booth helping candidates and employers get registered on our site. Today, I need to get back to my first love! Some of the chefs yesterday even asked me about the blog. One even said his wife and friends usually follow my live coverage each year (ouch).

As the day goes on, I will update this post with yesterday’s winners, photos of dishes, and the details of today’s competition. Stay tuned, and watch on Instagram or Twitter at @arfoodie.

Wednesday, Sept. 16

Heat 1:

  • Chef Gilbert Alaquinez, Sous Chef at Clinton Presidential Center
  • Chef Shane Curley, Sous Chef at Tusk & Trotter
  • Chef Jason Knapp, Executive Chef at Sysco Arkansas
  • Chef Brian Kumrow, Sous Chef at Southland Park Gaming & Racing

Mystery Basket: 1855 Ribeye, Figs, Masa, Cauliflower.
Chef Shane Curley was eliminated.

Heat 2: 

  • Chef Jeff Caruso, Executive Chef at Little Rock Marriott
  • Chef Casey Copeland, Executive Chef at SO Restaurant & Bar
  • Chef Justus Moll, Executive Chef at River Grille Steakhouse
  • Chef Breck Hatcher, Executive Chef at YaYa’s Eurobistro

Mystery Basket: Trout, Baby Kale, Cucumber, Grapefruit.
Chef Breck Hatcher was eliminated.

Heat 3: 

  • Chef Justus Moll, Executive Chef at River Grille Steakhouse
  • Chef Gilbert Alaquinez, Sous Chef at Clinton Presidential Center
  • Chef Jason Knapp, Executive Chef at Sysco Arkansas

Mystery Basket: Crystal Lake Farms Chicken, Duck Bacon, Mushrooms, Beets.
Chef Justus Moll was eliminated.

Heat 4: 

  • Chef Casey Copeland, Executive Chef at SO Restaurant & Bar
  • Chef Jeff Caruso, Executive Chef at Little Rock Marriott
  • Chef Brian Kumrow, Sous Chef at Southland Park Gaming & Racing

Mystery Basket: 1885 Strip, Butternut Squash, Horseradish Root, Asparagus.
Chef Brian Kumrow was eliminated.

Thursday, Sept. 17

Heat 5: 

  • Chef Casey Copeland, Executive Chef at SO Restaurant & Bar
  • Chef Jeff Caruso, Executive Chef at Little Rock Marriott

Mystery Basket: Arborio Rice, Muscadine Juice, Jicama, 1885 Skirt Steak
Chef Jeff Caruso was eliminated. Chef Copeland will move forward to the final heat.

Heat 6: 

  • Chef Gilbert Alaquinez, Sous Chef at Clinton Presidential Center
  • Chef Jason Knapp, Executive Chef at Sysco Arkansas

Mystery Basket: Salmon, Dragonfruit, Rambutan, Rice, Stick Pasta, Watermelon
Chef Jason Knapp was eliminated. Chef Gilbert Alaquinez will move forward to the final heat.

FINAL HEAT:

  • Chef Gilbert Alaquinez, Sous Chef at Clinton Presidential Center vs.
  • Chef Casey Copeland, Executive Chef at SO Restaurant & Bar

Mystery Basket: Whole Duck, Canned Truffles, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Arugula

WINNER: Chef Casey Copeland, Executive Chef at SO Restaurant & Bar

Watch the winner announcement here.

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Matt Cooper of Cache wins 2014 Iron Chef Competition

18 Sep

Iron Chef wordsUPDATE: Chef Matt Cooper of Cache has won the 2014 Iron Chef Competition.

I saw from my search terms that some of you are wondering where in the world my Iron Chef coverage might be. I’ve been working at the trade show mainly on behalf of arfoodjobs.com, but I had to at least attend the final round of competition for Iron Chef. I’m excited to participate in the last and best round!

The finalists are Chef Matt Cooper of Cache and Chef Marc Guizol, both of whom are Iron Chef alumni. Guizol is the winner of the Iron Chef competition in 2013.

The final mystery basket contains:

  • Pumpkin
  • Molasses
  • Farro
  • Almonds
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Pork Brisket

The chefs have 40 minutes to create a dish with these ingredients. See photos and plate descriptions below.

Final dish by Matt Cooper of Cache

Final dish by Matt Cooper of Cache

Matt Cooper’s dish:

Risotto style pumpkin farro
Marinated pork with chiles, fennel, paprika, molasses
Pumpkin and fennel moustarda
Pumpkin seed and almond gremolata

Final dish by Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel

Final dish by Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel

Marc Guizol’s dish:

Pork two ways, BBQ and Asian
Potato chips and pumpkin chips
Brussels sprouts with truffle oil
Farro with shiitake mushrooms, orange, cinnamon and almond

WINNER: Matt Cooper of Cache.

Arkansas Hospitality Association Iron Chef 2013 Results

19 Sep
Chef Marc Guizol of Capitol Hotel in Heat #5 on Thursday.

Chef Marc Guizol of Capitol Hotel in Heat #5 on Thursday. Guizol went on to win the final round of the competition.

The Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Trade show is an annual flurry of chefs, hospitality professionals and tourism folk.

It’s kind of my happy place.

Having worked in PR (lots of those folks here), museums and tourism (yep) and now the culinary arts (they’re swarming this place), it’s no surprise.

The highlight of the trade show is the Iron Chef competition, set up right this minute in the very middle of the Statehouse Convention Center floor. Every year, chefs vie for top billing in this highly competitive secret-basket event.

It’s a great learning experience for any cook, seeing how one might take a random basket of ingredients (say, what you might already have in your house on a given day) and make something otherworldly.

Below, I have listed the competitors, the baskets and the single eliminated chef from each round. I will update today as the winners are revealed.

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Wednesday, Sept. 18

Heat #1:

Chef Jackson Bolton of Clinton Presidential Center
Chef Matthew Cooper of Cache
Chef Michael Brown of Simply the Best
Chef Shane Curley of Packet House Grille

Basket: Whole snapper, fresh ginger, English cucumbers, Rock Town Gin

Chef Jackson Bolton was eliminated.

Heat #2:

Chef Jeff Stephens of Simply the Best
Chef Jon Lamb of Verizon Arena
Chef Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel
Chef Justus Moll of River Grille Steakhouse

Basket: Grouper, sea beans, Ritz crackers, Diamond Bear Beer, War Eagle grits

Chef Jeff Stephens was eliminated.

Heat #3:

Chef Michael Brown of Simply the Best
Chef Matthew Cooper of Cache Restaurant
Chef Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel

Basket: Chicken thighs, green lentils, tri-color baby carrots, apple.

Chef Michael Brown was eliminated.

Heat #4:

Chef Shane Curley of Packet House Grille
Chef Jon Lamb of Verizon Arena
Chef Justus Moll of River Grille

Basket: Ribeye steak, orange, fingerling potatoes, A-1 sauce.

Chef Jon Lamb was eliminated.

Thursday, Sept. 19

Heat #5:

Chef Matthew Cooper of Cache
Chef Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel

Basket: Shrimp, linguine, watermelon, watermelon cucumber, dragonfruit.

Chef Matthew Cooper was eliminated.

Heat #6:

Chef Justus Moll of River Grille
Chef Shane Curley of Packet House Grille

Basket: Pork tenderloin, apple, balsamic vinegar, dried fig, sweet potatoes, heirloom carrots

Chef Shane Curley was eliminated.
Final will be Chef Marc Guizol of Capitol Hotel vs. Chef Justus Moll of River Grille. 

Celebrity Heat:

Chef Jamie McAfee, PIne Bluff Country Club and Christina Munoz, KATV Ch. 7
Stephen Burrow, Clinton Presidential Center and Scott Inman, KATV Ch. 7

Basket: Catfish, heirloom tomato, butternut squash, honey, Rock Town bourbon

Winner: Chef Jamie McAfee, PIne Bluff Country Club and Christina Munoz, KATV Ch. 7

FINAL ROUND

Chef Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel
Chef Justus Moll of River Grille

Basket: Trout, arborio rice, cashew, tahini, avocado, red pimento pepper

FINAL WINNER: Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel

Lulav’s Matt Cooper wins 2012 Iron Chef Arkansas at Ark. Hospitality Association Convention

22 Sep

Chef Matthew Cooper of Lulav displays a black truffle earlier in the week at the AHA Culinary Classic.

Congrats to Chef Matt Cooper of Lulav Modern Eatery, who won this week’s Iron Chef Arkansas competition at the Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Trade Show.

I have a particular fondness for this guy because he was one of my instructors at Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School. He wasn’t a regular instructor, brought in from the field, so to speak, to teach our American Regional Cuisine class in my last semester. He brought a refreshing perspective, still being full-time in a professional kitchen and having an interesting range of experience.

Continue reading

Clarity and Goat Cheese Watermelon Salad (Recipe) at #AWBU

6 Sep
Watermelon salad inside a hollowed watermelon half with rosemary sprig

Keep reading (or skimming) and be rewarded. Our winning Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad with Rosemary. Not bad for thrown together, Iron Chef style.

I started Fancy Pants Foodie about three years ago now, with the original intent of showing you peoples how to make some upscale food, fairly easily, at home.

Having had the journalism bug (and degree) as well, the blog soon included coverage of food events, new restaurants and stores, chefs and other food-related news. Sometimes the voice I used in these didn’t exactly match the one I used for recipes and instructional posts. Still doesn’t. One day you get snarky and fun, and the next you get inverted-pyramid-style straight journalism.

At the recent Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged conference, voice was an issue of conversation. Yeah, we needed to clarify our purpose, and then our voice. But what if we’re a little bipolar in what our blog does, like me?

What’s the purpose of this blog thing, anyway?

I’m very humbled and honored to say that this humble space has received a lot of love over the past three years. This is despite the redesign and site upgrade that I’ve threatened now for two years and still haven’t accomplished. The theme you see here (if you’re reading before said upgrade happens) is the one I randomly chose in the middle of the night when I decided to pull a blog out of my rear.

At the conference, and even more so after, I had to really think about what I’m doing in this space.

Sometimes lists help with clarity, so I made this one:

  • I write the blog to teach people how to cook from a semi-pro perspective, especially upscale things that may be new to them.
  • I also tell people about food news that’s going on in Arkansas.
  • And occasionally, I use the blog to inspire people to participate in food-related things that are bigger than themselves, or just to mess around and have fun.

So, if you’re counting, that’s at least three different blogs. All run together.

Based on what I learned at #AWBU, here’s some ideas:

  • No more straight-faced journalism pieces. I’ll save those for any outside writing gigs that use that sort of style. Even for newsy pieces like chef interviews or openings, my natural snark and wit are going to appear if it kills me. This is a blog, not a newspaper, for crying out loud.
  • A blog redesign is urgent, and will include categories separating the major styles and topics of the blog. I’m thinking “Recipes,” “News & Events” and “Features,” plus a category for outside work I’d like to do. Or something like that. Opening clips of all the stories will flow on the front page, though.
  • Write more freely. I tend to overthink and thereby not post as often as I should. The more I write, the more other good things happen.
  • Work on developing more of a community of Arkansas food people, specifically those who want to learn more about upscale cooking at home or professionally. I get traffic from all over the world, but I’d love for more of that to come from right here in our state, and for those who visit to join me in conversation.

Other bloggers have recapped the details of our conference pretty well, so I don’t feel obligated to fill you in on every little thing. But, of course, the highlight for me was Foodie Friday, completely dedicated to food-related blog love, orchestrated by the fab Lyndi of NWAFoodie.

And the best part of Foodie Friday? Iron Chef. No lie. After some brainstorming, sensory and other writing exercises, we were assigned a group and were placed into the hands of Tina Marie Wilcox, the “Herb Lady” at the Ozark Folk Center. Of course, I bounced in my seat when this activity was announced. By the way, we’d be feeding all the other AWBU attendees who were showing up for a reception. With OUR food.

Our team was assigned its herb: Rosemary. Walkthrough of a room filled with random available ingredients. GO.

We ended up making a sautéed mushroom and herb bruschetta that wasn’t my favorite ever, due to minimal of access to the toaster oven, as well as a stellar rosemary & berry lemonade created by fellow food blogger Kat Robinson. But the winner-winner-herbal-dinner was our watermelon salad with goat cheese and a red wine vinaigrette. With rosemary. Fo reals.

We won the “Best Use of Herbs” category by judges from the local Anglers restaurant.

I’m sure I’ll write further about the conference, so stay tuned for more details, foodie and otherwise. Meanwhile, find one of the last Arkansas watermelons and make this!

********************************************

Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad with Rosemary
From the Rosemary Team at #AWBU 2012 Iron Chef

  • One medium watermelon
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, small dice (feta works, too)
  • One half medium red onion, cut thinly into strips
  • 2 T. finely minced rosemary
  • 1/4″ red wine vinegar
  • 1/2″ extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Fresh raspberries and a clean rosemary sprig for garnish

Cut a very thin slice off one side of the watermelon, not cutting into the flesh, to create a stable bowl. If you’re chicken, or you just forget like I did, just place the watermelon on a towel to keep it stable. Cut the watermelon in half, keeping your slice in the center of the half you plan to use as a bowl.

Using a spoon or knife, remove as much flesh as possible from both watermelon halves and cut it into chunks or cubes. Remove seeds as much as possible. Place all these pieces into a large bowl and drain all the extra liquid. Carefully stir in the cheese, onion strips and rosemary. (Save a bit of rosemary for garnish.)

In a separate bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the watermelon mixture and gently toss.

Note: If you’re using the goat cheese, it will melt and get oozy. It’s what we had available. Go with it. If I were doing this at home, I’d probably go with feta, which has a known relationship with watermelon in some circles. 

Fill the chosen watermelon rind with your finished salad, and sprinkle the remaining rosemary on top. Garnish the edges of the bowl with the berries, and place a sprig or two of whole rosemary in the side so folks know what’s in it.

Arkansas Hospitality Association and Iron Chef Competition

22 Sep

It’s here! My favorite convention of the year, the Arkansas Hospitality Association.

Today, several of my fellow students and I are eating, looking and learning; booths here range from large food purveyors such as Ben E. Keith and Sysco to hotel service providers and restaurants. Meanwhile, the annual Iron Chef competition booms in the background. I’ll bring you updates on each heat as they come in.

Iron Chef Competition

Heat 1: Kathy Webb of Lily’s Dim Sum, Then Some and Heather Brown of Alice 107.7 vs. Brandon Douglas of Big Rock Bistro, Pulaski Tech and Poolboy of Alice 107.7
Mystery Protein: Duck Breast
Winner: Brandon Douglas and Poolboy

Egg dishes from Heat 2.

Heat 2: Jason Knapp and Doug Spharler of Pulaski Tech vs. Lewis Curtis and J. Matt Lile of Lulav.
Mystery Protein: Egg
Winner: Jason Knapp and Doug Spharler of Pulaski Tech

Top sirloin dish by Simply the Best.

Heat 3: Jason Godwin and Joel Carr of Simply the Best vs. Tung Nguyen and Howard Austion of Southland Park Gaming & Racing.
Mystery Protein: Top Sirloin
Winner: Jason Godwin and Joel Carr of Simply the Best

Heat 4: Ted Roman and Jody Smallwood of the Arlington Hotel vs. Rob Nelson and James Rose of River Grille.
Mystery Protein: Tuna
Winner: Rob Nelson and James Rose of River Grille.

FINAL OVERALL WINNERS:
Rob Nelson and James Rose of River Grille

Iron Chef winners Rob Nelson and sous James Rose of River Grille.

Chef Rob Nelson busting a move.

Here are some photos from the convention, as well as Wednesday’s heats of Iron Chef. Please forgive any lack of detail until I have time to fill in.

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Foodie Event: Iron Chef at Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Tradeshow

25 Sep

(Update 9/29…See all participants and results below photos. Thanks to Holly Heer with AHA.)

Greetings, Foodies!

If you didn’t know, the Arkansas Iron Chef competition takes place annually on the Arkansas Hospitality Association convention and tradeshow floor, over the two days of the conference. Thanks to winning a couple silent auctions Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to sit in on yesterday’s Heat 2, and today’s final round.

As reported earlier, I tasted the results of yesterday’s Heat 2 between the boys from Forty Two and Simply the Best, with Forty Two winning. Here are the dishes from that round, using duck as the surprise ingredient:

Iron Chef Heat 2 dish by Chef Jacob Peck and Sous Chef Greg Wallis of Forty Two.Roasted duck with a mango gastrique, asparagus and couscous.

Iron Chef Heat 2 dish by Chef Jacob Peck and Sous Chef Greg Wallis of Forty Two. Roasted duck with a mango gastrique, asparagus and couscous.

Simply the Best

Iron Chef Heat 2 entry by Chef Jason Godwin and Sous Chef Willie Yearwood of Simply the Best. Seared duck breast with tomato onion jam, asparagus and mozzarella tortellini, and mushroom cream sauce.

I’m not going to pick favorites here, as they were both incredible. But let me just tell you…that “onion tomato jam,” as bizarre as it sounds to most of us, was slap-your-momma good. I was literally whacking the table. Mmmm. But both were wonderful, and Forty Two won the heat with tons of points, carrying them immediately to the final round.

**Intermission** I have to tell a funny story. I thought all this time that my second silent auction prize was for the Semi-Final round. It said so on the ticket. I sit down today at the appropriate time, and the folks in charge politely shoo me out, as someone else had won that tasting. Turns out that my ticket was misprinted, and I had, in fact, won the FINAL round tasting. Booyah!

The final round was between Chef Jacob Peck and Sous Chef Greg Wallis of Forty Two, and Chef Osi Imomoh and Sous Chef Howard Austion of Southland Park Gaming & Racing. The surprise protein was — wait for it — rabbit. I think I was the only one to chuckle, picturing the poor old rabbit form they used to use at the greyhound races. (They tell me it’s now a bone shape that draws the doggies around the track.)

Me 'n' Mona about to eat some good stuff.

Me 'n' Mona about to eat some good stuff.

Since I had so much food to myself yesterday for Heat 2, I invited a friend, Ramona Collins (@monaspoeticwax) to eat with me. Our lives have crossed paths in several weird ways over our lives, and we’re just now getting to know each other. What a great way to do so, over great food!

Here are the two dishes we tasted for the final round:

Iron Chef Final Round dish by Chef Osi Imomoh and Sous Chef Howard Austion of Southland Park Gaming & Racing. Smothered rabbit with cornmeal johnnycake, greens and roasted squash.

Iron Chef Final Round dish by Chef Osi Imomoh and Sous Chef Howard Austion of Southland Park Gaming & Racing. Smothered rabbit with cornmeal johnnycake, greens and roasted squash.

Iron Chef Final Round dish by Chef Jacob Peck and Sous Chef Greg Wallis of Forty Two. Roasted rabbit with a raspberry coulis, sweet applesauce, carrots and greens w/bacon. This was the winning dish.

Iron Chef Final Round dish by Chef Jacob Peck and Sous Chef Greg Wallis of Forty Two. Roasted rabbit with a raspberry coulis, sweet applesauce, carrots and greens w/bacon. This was the winning dish.

IRON CHEF COMPETITION PHOTOS:

Wednesday, September 23

Heat 1, Celebrity Round – Chef Jamie McAfee, Pine Pluff Country Club & Steve Marston, Point 94.1 vs. Chef Andre Poirot, Peabody Hotel & Jennifer Trafford, Point 94.1

Winner: Poirot & Trafford

Heat 2 – Chef Jacob Peck & Sous Chef Greg Wallis, 42 vs. Chef Jason Godwin & Sous Chef Willie Yearwood, Simply the Best Catering

Winner: 42

Heat 3 – Chef Ted Roman & Sous Chef Jody Smallwood, Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa vs. Chef Osi Imomoh & Sous Chef Howard Austion, Southland Park Gaming & Racing

Winner: Southland Park Gaming & Racing

Heat 4 – Chef Phillip Southan, River Grille & Sous Chef Krista Rogalla, Pulaski Tech Culinary School vs. Chef Nathan Miller & Sous Chef Karle Johnson, The House

Winner: The House

Thursday, September 24

Semi-Finals

Chef Osi Imomoh & Sous Chef Howard Austion, Southland Park Gaming & Racing vs. Chef Nathan Miller & Sous Chef Karle Johnson, The House

Winner: Southland Park Gaming & Racing

Finals

Chef Osi Imomoh & Sous Chef Howard Austion, Southland Park Gaming & Racing vs. Chef Jacob Peck & Sous Chef Greg Wallis, 42

Iron Chef Champion: 42