Picture it: One Hour, Three Line Cooks Per Team, Two Secret Ingredients, One Appetizer, One Entree, and a roomful of family, peers, and superiors as spectators. No pressure, right?
Recently I was invited to judge the Internal Iron Chef Loews Hotel Competition, a friendly competition amongst teams from each of Loews on-site hotels – Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, and Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Spearheading the competition is Hard Rock Hotel’s Executive Sous Chef Anton Vintes. “The Iron Chef event is a fun, exciting way for the food and beverage teams at each of the hotels to showcase their skills and expertise in a bit of friendly competition. It’s always a morale boost when team members get to meet and participate in events with those from the other properties”.
Joining me as judges were Heather McPherson – Orlando Sentinel food editor and dining critic; Rona Gindin – aka Rona Recommends; Chef Steve Jayson – VP & Corporate Executive Chef, Universal Parks & Resorts.
- Must use secret ingredients. 1 protein for entree, 1 ingredient for appetizer.
- Must create 1 appetizer and 1 entree, 2 plates of each.
- Once the ingredients are revealed, 5 minutes to discuss, 1 hour to cook, walk plates to judges and explain dish in 30 seconds.
- Teams will begin and finish in 5 minute intervals.
- Must work from provided ingredient shelves – no ingredient brought in.
- There will be no shopping of the coolers or dry shelves in the Royal Pacific Resort Kitchen.
- RPR will provide tables, hot boxes, skillets, ovens, fryers, grills, and stove. All other small ware must be brought in.
- Three players per team.
- Judges – 3 persons not tied to a specific hotel.
- Scoring based on plate presentation, use of ingredients, and taste
Without further adieu, I present to you the friendly Loews Iron Chef Competition. The energy in RPR kitchen was electric, nail-biting at times, the contestants calm and focused with laser sharp precision, oblivious to their cheer leaders, competitors, or judges.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Contestants: Samantha Rosado, Evelia Bermudez, Josue Cruz.
Appetizer: Panko Crusted Fillet of Red Snapper with a Blue Berry Compote.
Entree: Pan Seared Tres Major of Beef with Demi-Glace, Purple Peruvian Potato Puree and Seared Cherry Tomatoes
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Contestants: Emily Crowell, Guy Forsberg, Bill Beveridge
Appetizer: Pan Sear Medallions of Red Snapper with Fried Polenta Cakes and Blue Berry Sauce
Entree: Pan Seared Tres Major of Beef with Horseradish Potato Au Gratin.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Contestants: Erich Sieg, Angel Aponte, Jason Carreira
Appetizer: Oven Roasted Tres Major of Beef with Demi-Glace, Roasted Celery, Mushroom Ragout.
Entree: Pan Seared Fillet of Red Snapper with Rice Pilaf and Crispy Bacon Strips.
Hard Rock Hotel
Contestants: Ismael Dela Rosa, Anthony Piedra, Edwin Charriez
Appetizer: Tarragon and Dijon Crusted Fillet of Red Snapper topped with a scotched poached egg with a Fresh Tomato Gazpacho with crispy Serrano Ham.
Entree: Pan Seared Tres Major of Beef topped with Truffle Goat Cheese and Crispy Shallots with a Fennel and Carrot Puree and Beet infused Roasted Cauliflower.
Aside from bragging rights and trophy, the winning team received a $600 cheque and all teams received gift baskets.
DRUM ROLL: The unanimous winner was Hard Rock Hotel Team. Bravo!! Impeccable presentation, unique use of ingredients, and simply delicious.
Considering that the teams comprised only of line cooks, ALL teams did a phenomenal job. Whispers were that the teams had worked tremendously hard and even auditioned for the past few weeks leading to this delicious contest.
I for one was proud and humbled to be part of such an inspirational event, showcasing raw passion and dedication in the culinary world. I sincerely hope more CFL restaurants follow Chef Anton’s exemplary example and continue honing their culinary skills elevating Orlando’s status as one of the finer foodie cities in America.