The 117th Interior Provincial Exhibition (IPE) Agricultural Showcase is taking place this weekend in Armstrong, BC! Of keen interest to Gluten-Free Foodies is the Iron Chef Competition, a five-day culinary marathon with chefs matching their skills, knowledge of ingredients and creativity, culminating in a ‘Gold’ Finale on Sunday!
Afke Zonderland of Okanagan Rawsome, well knows the pressure these chefs face – as a former IPE Iron Chef contestant and member of the Judge’s Panel. It’s not unlike the pressure she faced as a humble waitress when she first arrived in North America!
“The Iron Chef competition has been a popular event at the IPE for about 6 years. We have a love affair with food and it’s only natural that we want to see what the professional and amateur Chefs will cook up after meandering through the aisles where the ribbons are handed out to top local gardeners.
I have had the pleasure of judging the Iron Chef competitions and presenting workshops in previous years. The quality of the dishes that the amateur chefs prepared truly blew me away. Just like TV shows, Chef competitions are a race against the clock and being super organized.
My first experience with a restaurant kitchen goes back to 1969. I visited family in Holland Michigan and got an illegal job as a waitress in a 5 star hotel and restaurant on the Lake during my 5 month stay. At that time there were just five of these superb establishments in the USA.
Before I was allowed near the customers to serve a breakfast plate, I undertook a week of training where I had to memorize orders – no pencil and pad allowed in front of the customers – and then write them up in a very specific order for the kitchen. It was nerve wracking! Failure meant getting yelled at by the Master Chef. The final test consisted of serving breakfast to the big boss!!
I studied another week just to learn the routine at the bar when I was promoted to serving lunches. I had never even heard of martinis and cocktails, not to mention which drink required an olive or a maraschino cherry. It was the job of the waitress to put the glasses on the serving tray for the bartender, and you had better have the right amount of salt on the rim of the martini glass!
There I was shaking in my little golden uniform and black shoes, learning English as best and as fast as I could, while I tried to be friendly and efficient. I will never forget the day when someone ordered a roast beef sandwich and the head chef noticed I had written MR (for Medium Rare) on my kitchen note.
I had forgotten to ask the customer how he would like to have his “steak’ done and was too embarrassed to go back and ask. I thought to play it save and just take the middle ground – MR. Little did I know that a roast-beef sandwich had nothing to do with a grill! The master chef made sure that everyone in the kitchen heard about my Medium Rare roast beef sandwich for the rest of my waitressing career as a twenty year-old!
To tell you the truth, I loved being a waitress. I suppose it’s a different matter when the meals are not up to snuff and the customer is unhappy. However, it was in Holland, Michigan where my love of beautifully crafted food began. To have worked behind the scenes and witnessed perfectly timed meals leave a busy kitchen made me appreciate the brilliance of a Master Chef.
You can see for yourself this weekend Okanagan’s food enthusiasts who love their kitchens and know how to make meals that are fit for discerning palates at the IPE’s Iron Chef competitions.”
Grilled Peaches and Blackberries
With Blackberries as the Iron Chefs’ assigned ‘secret ingredient,’ here is the dessert Afke created, under duress, with great success!
- Carefully halve the peeled peaches.
- Make a marinade of balsamic vinegar, a little maple syrup and melted butter.
- Add a sprig of rosemary and gently simmer for 15 minutes.
- Place the peaches into the marinade for an hour at room temperature.
- Grill, while brushing the peaches with the marinade. I used the sprig of rosemary for that job.
Serve with ripe blackberries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipping cream. (I also like making this dessert in my dehydrator at 125 degrees for an hour.)
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