Elm City Iron Chef 2013: “Challenge of the Champions” Competition

by Foodie Fatale on June 24, 2013

in Connecticut,Restaurants,Women In Food

Jane_JoceWith fellow judge Jane Stern; photo by Graham Finklea of GEM Advertising

Recently, I had the pleasure of judging New Haven’s “Iron Chef Elm City.” It was my  third year participating in this event, which is produced by Stephen Fries, Gateway Community College (GCC) Professor and Coordinator of Hospitality Management Programs- all proceeds benefit this excellent program.

The “Challenge of the Champions” event featured three winners from the past five years: Chef Ben Gaffney of Atticus Bookstore Café,  Chef Arturo-Franco Camacho, owner of Tacuba Taco Bar, Waterhouse Oyster Bar and the Seawich Sandwich Shop in Branford and Chef Prasad Chirnomula owner of Thali, Thali Too and Oaxaca Kitchen.

My fellow judges were Sarah Breckenridge, senior web producer for Fine Cooking magazine and icon Jane Stern, co-author of dozens of cookbooks, best known for her “Roadfood” series. Stern is teaching a course in Food Writing this semester at Gateway (what lucky students!!). We used a numeric system to each evaluate every dish on taste, plating and originality.


With fellow judge Jane Stern; photo by Graham Finklea of GEM Advertising 
ArtutoActionJocelyn Maminta
, WTNH-TV’s Emmy Award-nominated medical reporter, emceed with her usual charm and friendliness (see Jocelyn’s inspiring charity Caroline’s Room) and Gateway  hospitality/culinary students were on hand to assist the chefs. It always gives me great joy to see future food professionals.

 BenActionThis is how “Iron Chef Elm City” works: The chefs are provided with a list of five possible “secret” ingredients a week before the event. Just like the television show, once  the “secret” ingredient is unveiled live, the chefs create an appetizer, entree and dessert using that ingredient – all in one hour. This year’s honored ingredient was Torrington, CT-based Holly’s Oatmeal.Oatmeal in a dessert I could envision and taste immediately. But how, I wondered, could oatmeal possibly work well with appetizer

PrasadActionThe buzzer chimed, the crowd cheered and they were off. A truly exciting spectator sport, complete with drama, anticipation and speed. I was happily suprised and impressed with the resulting dishes, and lucky to taste them with my fellow judges.


The Champion of the day was the incomparable Chef Prasad Chirnomula, whose cuisine I have long admired.

Please enjoy below photos and decriptions of the delicious and original dishes Prasad served the lucky judges at Iron Chef Elm City (he also offered these at a special Iron Chef Dinner event earlier this month).


The Appetizer: Raj Katchori

India is known for its street food which is vegetarian and affordability. My approach was to make use of oatmeal to its full extent and also at a first bite, you should travel with food with hints full o flavors. I used oatmeal to make as a puff pastry and fill it with tasty oatmeal seasoned with tingling chutneys made out of tamarind, mint and cilantro. The appetizer is light, tasty and very colorful to please the eyes as well.



The Entree: Berrylicious Fish KormaPrasadEntree
The Dessert: Ginnu (Junnu)

When I first tasted an Italian dessert Panna Cotta it reminded me of a dessert made from the first milk of cow after giving birth to calves. My mom use to make this dessert with this milk and it was a real treat growing as a child. I created a similar dish with use of jaggery and the local ingredients with banana, cocoa and Holly’s oatmeal. It was an instant success to remind me of my childhood.


photo by Graham Finklea of GEM Advertising

Chef Arturo also served some tasty dishes- I especially loved dessert (and think of it often still!):

Seared Scallops served over an Oatmeal-Sausage Cake with Cabbage Citrus Salad and Saffron Reduction:


Oatmeal-Crusted Pork Tenderloin in a Fennel-Onion Potato Bed, served with Pomegranate Molasses Sauce:ArturoEntree

Pineapple Rum-Raisin Oatmeal Crisp served with Fresh Whipped Cream:





About Gateway Community College
Gateway Community College is one of the state’s fastest growing community colleges and the 10th largest institution of higher education in Connecticut. GCC offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs and serves more than 11,000 credit and non-credit students each year. GCC serves students in 24 towns and cities in the greater New Haven area. For more information, visit www.GatewayCT.edu.


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