I finally got my first taste of stress in the kitchen last week in an Iron Chef-like competition against Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe, or as I like to affectionately refer to him as my “one degree from Justin Timberlake” as he’s Sexyback’s executive chef in New York.
You could not have picked more opposite competitors – he’s a big, bad-ass, king of the grill, with multiple heavyweight pit master championship belts that he twirls around his finger. Many tattoos. A long goatee that he whips around to slap annoying, hyperactive Chinese chicks.
Dr BBQ moves so fast! Unfair advantage: he’s Flash Gordon in disguise.
And me? The only time I get any grill action is when Scott’s out of town and I can sneak in a hot, lusty affair with Weber, Charbroil or whatever his name is. I’m too much of a wimp to get my belly button pierced, let alone volunteer to be stabbed repeatedly ten times per second by a needle filled with ink. No, I’d just prefer to click-clack in my 3-inch heels, flip my perky pony tail and pretend I’m saying “prune” like the Olson twins to create that perfect pout.
yes, I really do cook in heels – I have to, I’m only 5’2″!!!
Like the real Iron Chef competition, we had a panel of judges who scored us for plating, taste, use of ingredient and being able to deliver the goods on time. And that’s where the similarities end. You think Iron Chef is intense? We each had 7 kitchen assistants that we only met seconds before the competition started, and these were regular people who PAID to have a fun evening of learning, cooking and eating. Do you know what that means? No swearing! No calling any team members “donkeys” a la Gordon Ramsey! No sabotaging Dr. BBQ’s ingredients!
Four dishes were to be served, an appetizer, main, side dish and dessert. We had to feed 24 people and the appetizer had to be served 40 minutes after start. While Dr. BBQ, who’s been through over 300 competitions, was joking around and knockin’ back drinks with his team, I went into OCD overdrive. I didn’t have time to chit-chat and memorize names, so I assigned numbers, like House. #5 was my sous chef, a 13 year old kid. I busted out my spreadsheet which detailed which team member did what job at precisely what time . #4, skin the salmon! #2 grate the corn! #6 chop the scallions! #7 don’t burn the ham!
NO TIME FOR TALKY! TALKY! GET CHOPPY! CHOPPY!
you thought I was joking about the spreadsheets, didn’t you?!?
teaching #4 how to skin salmon…”hold your knife at an angle, keep the edge of blade pressed against cutting board and gently slide back and forth.”
But after the first 20 minutes, the spreadsheet was ditched. Just because I’ve dined at The French Laundry before, it certainly doesn’t make me a Thomas Keller, who runs his kitchen with military-like precision. We even ended up losing the recipes, there was no time for the team to read the recipe and instead I quickly called out instructions on the fly and seasoned the entire meal by taste. While I was totally off on my Minced Chicken and Corn Soup seasoning (my fault, I didn’t add enough salt) our Asian Herb Crusted Salmon with Garlic Butter Noodles was spot on – thanks to #3 who cooked the salmon perfectly and #1 who made sure we had all ingredients ready for the noodles. The Chilled Sweet Coconut with Tapioca and Melon was the most perfect dessert to cool and calm the palate.
Never trust a man who wears blue rubber gloves and calls himself a “Dr.”
Dr. BBQ’s Melon Cocktail
So who’s cuisine reigned supreme? I’m proud to say that team Steamy Kitchen kicked some BBQ butt! Well, in all honesty, out of the possible 200 points, I barely squeaked a win with less than a 9 point lead. But hey, it’s my first cooking competition ever and I’ll take it!
The winning moment – champagne! See my team? Kent, the 13yr old was my kick-butt sous-chef, fried some good Garlic Butter Noodles!
My team rocked – I can’t believe how quickly they learned how to skin a side of salmon and wok-fry! Now that I’ve won and my head is as big as a blimp, I get to choose my next challenger. Come on – you tell me which local chef I should challenge in August. And if you’ve ever wanted a taste of the kitchen heat, sign up to participate at Rolling Pin in Brandon!
Thank you judges (front) Jeff Houck (Tampa Tribune), Pam Brown (Brandon Chamber of Commerce), Dave Wirth (Tampa Bay’s Channel 10) and host Dave West (Rolling Pin) – and to all the assistants, Lynne, Dennis, Lynette and Danita who helped!
Minced Chicken and Corn Soup (recipe going into cookbook!)
Asian Herb Crusted Salmon (recipe going into cookbook!)