The 10th Annual Iron Chef Culinary Throw Down

Posted on 11/20/2017
The 10th Annual Iron Chef Culinary Throw Down

Every year, culinary teams from the FHSD high schools come together to compete in the annual Sodexo Culinary Celebrations Iron Chef Competition. Sodexo, the District’s food service provider, generously donates all of the food for the event. The only competition more fierce than the culinary throw down is the competition to see who gets to be one of the judges!

The student teams of five must do all of the cooking, and no pre-cooked items are allowed. Students are expected to practice industry standards for safety and sanitation during the competition. Teams only have two hours to prepare a meal for 60 people, and the pressure really builds. But if you can’t stand the heat… “When we started cooking it was a really fun time, but once that timer goes off your time is really limited,” said FHC junior Nicole Jones. “It gets a little intense, so you have to work with each other and stay positive.”

Items that must be on the menu include an entrée featuring meat, seafood, or a vegetarian option, a starch/side, a vegetable/salad, and dessert. This year, the surprise ingredient was tomatillos, a key ingredient in Mexican and Central-American cuisine, and the “verde” in salsa verde. All teams were required to incorporate it into at least one dish. Food items are judged on presentation, taste, and originality, as related to the theme. The theme this year was “Food Truck Bonanza!”

FHU whipped up stuffed poblanos with pepper sauces, and FHC created Cap’n Crunch chicken tacos and blackberry honey walnut salad. FHHS created the “Beacon of Bacon” and even had a bacon-themed dessert – brownies with maple bacon ice cream. But the clear winner in the judge’s eyes (and mouths) was FHN with their snap crackle cluck chicken, cauli-poppers, “give me a wedgie” potato wedges, and Knight-cho mama’s apple pie. “It’s more intense than I expected,” said FHN senior and winning team member Alex Nelson. “I’m extremely happy with our product. It came down to the wire, but I’m happy we ended getting everything out in time, and it all turned out fantastic!”

Sodexo District Chef Karin Mann runs the competition, and she gets just as much out of it as the students do. But as she points out, it’s more than just a game for some – it’s a pathway to a career. “Seeing kids come together to cook and compete in something other than sports is a great thing. Many of these kids go on to have careers in Los Angeles and New York and everywhere in between.”

Celebrity judge Carl McConnell is the owner/executive chef at Stone Soup Cottage in Cottleville. He knows firsthand that the competition produces quality food, and even more importantly, quality employees. “Most of my chef de parties have come from the Francis Howell culinary program. They are amazing kids, and you do an amazing job here at the high schools. These kids that you’re turning out from this program are wonderful, they have great foundations that we can build upon because of the education that they get here in Francis Howell.” 

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