The delicious mixture of smells emanating from the foods rooms at Pitt Meadows secondary was the first indicator that the school’s first annual Iron Chef competition was going to be a hit.
Pitt’s foodie kids and teachers chopped and sliced, stirred and sauteed in a two-hour competition that resulted in some gourmet creations.
Taylor Sonmor talked as he stirred a roasted carrot and potato soup – the teams found out on the day of the competition what would be the secret ingredient they would have to employ in their meal, and it was carrots.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” he said of the competition.
“There are so many good cooks in this school, and there’s no real outlet other than the foods class,” added his teammate on Team Lads, Brayden Gunn.
He was seasoning and frying chicken pieces that would be going into their fettuccine Alfredo main. The garlicky soup was the appetizer. For dessert, they planned crepes with a “tropical sauce.” They were even making a beverage – a pineapple lemonade spritzer.
Gunn’s dad is a home chef, and his love of good food has been passed down to his son.
“I’m one of the go-to people whenever we have a family dinner,” he said. “That’s good and bad.”
Sonmor’s father is a working chef.
“I just watched him in the kitchen when I was a kid. Now I cook dinner every night.”
Feeling his oats, he wanted to take on the adult teams:
“It’s really lame that we can’t face the teachers.”
Next to The Lads was The Chefs, a junior team, making oyster Rockefeller in a carrot sauce, a Philippine-style stir fry main, and cream caramel for dessert.
The creations were all ambitious and fragrant.
“I love cooking. I’m actually missing baseball for this,” Grade 10 student Domenic Baptiste said as he stirred a pudding.
His cooking team was preparing pasta with a shrimp sauce, short ribs and a chocolate/carrot cake for dessert. Baptiste’s pudding was going between the cake layers.
In the next kitchen station, senior Jimmy Liu was slicing cherry tomatoes for use with a salmon dish, while his teammate Alex Auclair chopped up a vegetable pancake appetizer. Dessert was to be a coconut waffle with coconut whipped cream.
Their only complaint was that they hadn’t been able to compete in each of their high school years.
“I wish they had come up with it sooner,” said Auclair. “It’s a great way to get everyone involved.”
“I wish I had this last year,” echoed recent grad and culinary arts student Samantha McLean.
She was asked to judge the event, and admitted she didn’t expect the dishes to be such bona fide cuisine.
“I like that the teachers are competing, and there are kids who aren’t even in cooking class here,” she said.
The organizers were blown away by the ambitious dishes.
“I’m so impressed,” said foods teacher Becky Cook, who organized the event with her colleague Wendy Brown.
“This is 50 times better than I could have done at their age.”
They created three trophies, the senior award a silvery chef’s knife mounted on a plaque, and also had arranged for cooking utensils as prizes for the winning teams.
There were 11 teams taking part, ranging from two to four cooks per team, and there were junior teams, senior teams and staff. Each cooking station was full.
Sonmor and Gunn won the senior trophy for their meal.
The Chefs – Alexander Quimbo, Marianne Jacobe Udtuhan, Angela Angelas and Charmaine Resoles – won the junior award.
And French Immersion teachers Mesdames Brown and Vetter served a quesadilla and fresh salsa appetizer, lamb main and chocolate bread pudding dessert to win the teacher trophy.
Brown said none of the dishes flopped, and although there was a frantic final minute, everyone got their dishes prepared in the two-hour time limit.
She said a new annual competition has been born.
“I was overwhelmed and extra pleased.”
Photo inset: Jimmy Liu marinates salmon with cherry tomatoes. Above, Brayden Gunn (left) and Taylor Sonmor of Team Lads cook fettuccine Alfredo.