UT competition to put culinary athletes to test


Whose cuisine will reign supreme?

You can have your chefs of wood. To heck with your chefs of plastic. When the University of Toledo holds a student cooking competition, it’s iron chefs all the way.

On March 20, the school will host an Iron Chef competition, inspired by the insanely popular television show Iron Chef, itself a bit of inspired insanity. In the student version, five teams will complete to be the best at creating and then cooking from recipes all featuring a secret ingredient to be revealed that day. Potential secret ingredients suggested by the university include steak, chicken, cabbage, lima beans, and bananas.

Personally, this column hopes the ingredient will be lima beans. We’d like to see anyone try to make anything worth eating out of those.

Each team will consist of three students, a faculty adviser, and, thankfully, a residence hall chef acting as sous chef. Creating and cooking the recipes will all be in the hands of the students.

The competition begins at 4 p.m. in the Ottawa East Dining Hall on the UT campus. The public is invited to cheer on their favorite teams and to taste and vote for the best dishes. The winning dish will be featured in the university’s regular food services.

Along with the People’s Champion, a winner will also be named by a panel of distinguished judges (three chefs, the UT dean of students and student government president, the Toledo Free Press’ food columnist, a radio personality, a firefighter) and one undistinguished judge.

Allez cuisine!

A little knowledge

It is a marketing concept that is irresistible: If a cookware store wants to sell you its product, it can demonstrate great meals to cook on it. It’s kind of like those vegetable-slicer exhibitions at home and cooking shows on a much bigger level.

Specifically, the Williams-Sonoma store at Westfield Franklin Park Mall (and all other stores around the country) would like to sell their goods, so they hold weekly cooking demonstrations, instruction, and even meals prepared out of particular cookbooks.

The stores have announced their schedule for March, which begins today with a free technique class on making the most out of the season’s bounty. The March 10 technique class will focus on growing herbs to use in your cooking. On March 24, they will look at making brunches from eggs, including how to perfectly poach an egg.

All of these classes are free and begin at 10 a.m.

A class at noon on March 17 will be a hands-on workshop on growing vegetables. It requires a $10 fee, which will be donated to the Edible Schoolyard Project.

A more intensive session will be held March 27, from 6:30-8 p.m., when instructor Mary Blaisdell will cook a modern Easter dinner, including seared baby lamb chops with fig-balsamic pan sauce, herb-roasted fingerling potatoes with whole-grain mustard, snap beans with caramelized shallots and roasted mushrooms, deviled eggs with lemon zest, chives, and capers, and a dessert of lemon cheesecake. The cost for this session, which includes tasting the food, is $50.

Finally, the anyone-can-join Cookbook Club meets March 13 at 6:30 p.m. This month, the instructors will be poring through Nigella Lawson’s new cookbook, Nigellissima, for recipes for fettucine with mushrooms, marsala, and mascarpone; chicken with tarragon salsa verde, Sicilian cauliflower salad; and instant chocolate-orange mousse. This event costs $75, which includes tasting the food and a copy of the cookbook.

Reservations may be made at 419-475-6368.

Wine? When?

First, we’ll talk beer. Then we’ll talk wine.

The Middle Grounds Market’s (27 Broadway in the Oliver House) beer tastings are Thursdays from 5-7:30 p.m., and cost $10 per person. This month’s schedule includes Sprecher beer on March 7, mead on March 14, beers from the Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Mich., on March 21, and beers released in the spring on March 28.

The market also holds wine tastings from 5-7:30 p.m. both Thursdays and Fridays, for $15 per person. That schedule includes European wines March 7 and 8, wines from the McManis Family Vineyards in Ripon, Calif., March 21 and 22, and Easter-friendly wines on March 28 and 29.

As a special treat, Rick Parducci of McNab Ridge Winery in Ukiah, Calif., will be on hand to serve his wines this Tuesday from 5-7 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Walt Churchill’s Market at 3320 Briarfield Blvd. is also serving up wines on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. The prices vary for these tastings. This month’s schedule includes organic, artisanal, regional wines for less than $20 a bottle on Saturday, Italian and French wines from importer Neil Rosenthal on March 16, Spanish red wines from Priorat, near Barcelona, on March 23, and a customer appreciation day on March 30.

Wow times 3

And finally, just because we have your attention, we would like to share some amazing food-related information from Food News Today:

• Responding to parents’ complaints that its messages such as “One who admires you greatly is hidden before your eyes” and “Romance and travel go together” are too racy, the world’s largest manufacturer of fortune cookies, Wonton Food, Inc. is replacing all such romantic fortunes with blander ones such as “You make every day special.”

• Although baby boomers are living longer than their parents, they are aging in much poorer health, largely due to obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Many fewer boomers said they exercise than their parents reported at the same age. In good news, boomers are much less likely to smoke, get emphysema, or have heart attacks.

• Jake’s Wayback Burgers, which are located primarily on the East Coast (plus one in Wadsworth, Ohio, among a few other locations), now has a nine-patty cheeseburger on their menus. The Triple Triple Burger goes for $12.99 and brings with it 5,100 calories and 117 grams (that’s more than a quarter-pound) of saturated fat.

Items for Morsels may be submitted up to two weeks before an event to food@theblade.com.