The Maumee Valley Chefs’ Association really does put its food where your money is.
The group, which is the local chapter of the American Culinary Federation, is holding its annual Scholarship and Awards Dinner on April 14, beginning at 5 p.m. in the Toledo Club. This is the biggest event of the year for the association, and it serves as a fund-raiser to help pay for scholarships for young, aspiring chefs.
Here is where it gets creative: Because the association believes so strongly in supporting young cooks, much of the food at the banquet is prepared by student cooks — under the watchful guidance of some of the best pros in town.
For instance, the evening’s hors d’oeuvres will be prepared by what are described as “young culinary students,” directed by the Toledo Club’s executive chef, Michael Rosendaul.
The duck breast entree (orange and chili-scented confit breast of duck, warm farro salad, green bean and bell pepper bundles), will be made by chef Dave Napierala of the Maritime Academy of Toledo, with help from students from Clay High School.
The duck, incidentally, is just one of three available entrees; guests will be asked to order their choices in advance. The other two are: Surf and turf (Maple glazed bacon steak, arugula pesto, and Russian dressing along with poached lobster, chanterelles, corn milk beurre blanc, and pea tendrils), by the chefs at the Hollywood Casino and students from Owens Community College; and a vegetarian option (fava bean puree with a winter vegetable tempura, truffle, bleu-cheese, risotto-quinoa croquettes topped with sunchoke rosemary chips, blanched fava beans, parsley oil, and balsamic roasted grapes) prepared by Marcel Hesseling of Chef Marcel Fine Catering, assisted by students from the Penta Career Center.
The evening’s salad, which comes with each meal, is also by Mr. Hesseling. It will consist of a julienne of English cucumber, carrot, and red pepper, Belgian endive, micro watercress, arugula greens, and red ribbon sorrel, with white balsamic-poppy seed vinaigrette on top of round cranberry-walnut toast, accompanied by locally sourced goat cheese.
The bread will be baked by Chef Ken Bredesen, the executive pastry chef at Hollywood Casino. Dessert, which is described as “a complimentary trio,” comes courtesy of Kelly Wolfe and her students at Owens Community College.
Along with handing out scholarships, the association also will honor its own with awards for aspiring culinarian, chef professionalism, culinary educator, and the big award, Chef of the Year.
Tickets are $55 apiece, or $400 for a table of 8. Tickets should be purchased in advance at maumeevalleychefs.com or by sending an email to email@example.com for more information.
A cheese whiz
Back when this column was only a few paragraphs high, we were passing acquaintances with the spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Part of her job was to accompany the world’s largest cheese, more than 40,000 pounds’ of cheddar, on its promotional visits around the country.
That job description came to mind when we got the latest dispatch from the same marketing board, with ideas for making grilled cheese the centerpiece of every meal of the day, plus dessert.
They must have a lot of time on their hands in Wisconsin.
Of course, you already know that April is National Grilled Cheese Month. It’s one of those month-long celebrations that we all look forward to every year, like Christmas. If you are lactose intolerant, that would mean also that April is the cruelest month.
Please remember that we are not endorsing these suggestions, we are merely passing them along:
● Breakfast: The board suggests a sandwich of brie and blueberry-lemon compote between two waffles, which it says “are the perfect substitute for bread in this breakfast grilled cheese.”
● Lunch: Pimiento grilled cheese sandwich, with creamy and sharp cheddar cheese.
● Dinner: A Mediterranean grilled cheese sandwich would combine mozzarella and Feta cheeses with fresh spinach, tomatoes, olives, and savory herbs and spices (they don’t specify the spices, but we would suggest thyme or oregano).
● Dessert: Hummingbird grilled cheese. So you take two slices of banana bread and put layers of pineapple, pecans, honey, and fontina cheese between them.
While doing the in-depth research the Morsels staff always sweats out when producing these hard-hitting food-related items, we came upon a 1989 story from the Chicago Tribune about the world’s largest cheese’s visit to Chicago. Reporter Steve Johnson wrote that the cheese “spent the whole day in its refrigerated trailer, ignoring reporters’ attempts to grill it.”
If there were a Pulitzer Prize for cheese-related jokes, we’d give it to that one.
This time, the famed Kitchen Stadium was an actual kitchen. That was in the middle of serving early dinner (or, considering the fact that the people eating it were college students, it might have been a late lunch). And in the midst of the chaos, a couple of dozen young, inexperienced cooks and their chef mentors were trying to turn out dishes good enough to win awards.
It was the first-ever Iron Chef competition last week at the University of Toledo. Five teams of students, representing learning communities and residence halls, were competing against each other to make a dish that would win the people’s ovation and fame forever. Not to mention perhaps the coolest trophy in the history of trophies.
None of the teams knew the secret ingredient before it was revealed: Potatoes. Then they had one hour to make a dish to present both to students in the dining hall and a panel of judges. The judges were nearly all esteemed, too, ranging from the chefs at local restaurants (La Scola, the Beirut, Revolution Grille) to Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, among many others.
The choice of potatoes as the secret ingredient made the already-difficult contest even more of a challenge. Potatoes take a long time to cook, so the student cooks had to cut them into smaller pieces as quickly as possible.
Yet in just 60 short minutes, they came out of the dining hall steam-table serving area with their fully finished dishes: a cream of potato soup with tomato, cheese, scallions, and bacon; a potato and ground-beef hash with bacon; a loaded baked-potato soup with bacon; southwestern style potato pancakes with salsa, jalapeno slices, and, shockingly, no bacon; and a double-stuffed redskin potato with ground beef, jalapeno slices, and bacon.
The judges declared that their winner was the double-stuffed potato, which was made by a team from the Multi-Cultural Leadership and Service Living Learning Community. The people’s choice award was snared by the Arts Living Learning Community for their loaded baked-potato soup.
Both teams went home with assorted swag and gift certificates.
For being judged the best by the judges, the MLSLLC team also got the large, shiny trophy, topped with a smiling Mr. Potato Head.
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