There were plenty of chefs in the kitchen but apparently not too many at the 15th annual Iron Chef Competition benefitting Gleaners Shared Harvest Pantry.

The yearly event, held Thursday at Bordine’s Nursery, took a new approach this year by splitting the chefs into teams of three. Team Purple consisted of Chefs Eirik Kauserud from the Hell Saloon, Steve Pilon of the Wooden Spoon and El Arbol Taqueria, and Patrick Srock from the Detroit Golf Club. They went up against Team Green, featuring Chefs Tammy Young of Great Lakes Chef and Catering, Craig Myrand from Adam Merkel Restaurants, and Randy Smith from US Foods. The teams were picked randomly at the start of the competition, thrusting the chefs into a quick and unplanned partnership that needed to work well together. Chef Myrand says they did just that, adding, "...everybody had no egos, we all just worked together...and had fun."

Chef Smith was an unexpected addition as he filled in for Chef Jody Brunori from The Laundry, due to a “restaurant emergency”. Smith has judged the competition several times in the past. He says he didn't learn he'd be competing until the night before, but dove right in and had a great time.

The teams were given a timed task of creating a three course meal that included a special ingredient, which they learned of just prior to each course. The secret ingredient for all three courses was Spam, while the entrée and dessert also had to include cereal. Each meal was then tasted and scored by a panel of judges, with a total of 400 points.

For the appetizer, Team Green made tacos with jalapeno-flavored Spam, salsa, and pico de gallo. Their main course was a porchetta stuffed with Spam, and was wrapped in bacon and roasted. The entrée was served with sweet potatoes and collard greens, and topped with unsweetened corn flakes to add texture to the “Spamchetta”. They finished off with a dessert that included Spam by cooking it down with ginger and teriyaki, and then pureed it with greek yogurt to make an Asian-style mousse. They then added sponge cake soaked in white wine with teriyaki grilled peaches, and a mixture of mint and corn chex as a crunchy topping.

Team Purple says they took a simple and minimalist approach. Their appetizer included seared Spam, a sea scallop, fried plantains, quinoa, pineapple, and an avocado mousse. Their main course was a sliced New York steak strip, potato croquette with Spam, and a cereal crust, accompanied by a mushroom compound butter, crispy capers, and grilled asparagus. Dessert was a mango Spam jalapeno ice cream with candied Spam slices.

Team Purple took home the win, defeating Team Green by 22 points. Chef Kauserud was glad about the win, but tells WHMI more than that, he enjoyed cooking with top chefs in a team that worked well together. While the teams’ creations were very different from one another, both agreed that dessert was the most difficult course to make. The Great Foodini Renee Chodkowski, who served as a judge, says both desserts were “amazing” even with Spam. She adds that it was a very tough competition.

A mixology competition was also held, which called for two bartenders to go head-to-head to make a drink with the secret ingredient being dragon fruit. Cody Wiseley of the RedBrick Kitchen and Bar won with his creation - a dragon fruit margarita.

Proceeds from the event will go directly back into the community to help feed those in need in Livingston County. (DK)