Judge Judi goes for the secret ingredient at Venice's chef competition.
By Judi Gallagher
I am addicted to the cooking shows Top Chef and Iron Chef. I’m amazed at culinary challenges and the “secret” ingredient. (Forget the screaming, foul- mouthed British “reality trader” Gordon Ramsey. While he might be a great chef, his antics and nasty vulgar language do not belong in a business associated with the word hospitality). So when Venice Downtown Association asked me to emcee and judge Iron Chef again this year, how could I refuse? I just loved the idea of finding out the secret ingredient (in this case, sun-dried tomatoes) and watching the chefs run to the pantry to scope out the protein and seasonings available. Chef hats off to Iron Chef Mark Pegram of the Venice Yacht Club. Knives down to the restaurant owner who became a sore loser...no names, please.
Let the cooking begin!
While not the prettiest dish, the flavor and use of ingredients make it a winner.
The ladies of Venice guard the judges' table.
On the same weekend, friends Doug and Kat Smith from Naples were deep in the throes of a neighborhood Iron Chef. During the week there were fascinating e-mails going back and forth—could Doug double a recipe for Gruyere souffle? (My answer by the way: no—the egg whites might break down as you gently blend them into the mixture). Doug really thought this one out and had a menu that could beat no other; needless to say, he ran away with the title. But before I suggest you have an Iron Chef in your own neighborhood, might I remind you that you will then be expected to cook for every gathering from there on in. Maybe bragging rights in the cul-de-sac just aren’t worth the effort!
Quick food find of the week: