Another year, another competition. A competition in which chefs try to make a meal out of something on the spot. Culinary improv, if you will. Through this, we see the true creativity and skill of each chef. This competition is call the Iron Chef Tucson. Last year's winner Ryan Clark of Lodge on the Desert defended his title for the third time. Ryan graduated on the Dean's list from the Culinary Institute of America and was named one of the top 16 junior chefs in the nation from The American Culinary Federation. The challenger was David Ferrara of Fire + Spice at the Sheraton Tucson Hotel and Suites. He began his began his career at the age of 15, learning from his Grandmother. Fire + Spice is a place in which David has combined his early experience with the flavors of The Old Pueblo thus creating a unique dining experience.
The host was Mrs. Grant from 94.9 MIX FM and the emcee was Jonathan Landeen. Jonathan is the chef and mustache aficionado of Jonathan's Cork. He has been commentating for the completion for seven years now. The competition took place in the grand ballroom of Lowe's Ventana Canyon.
The scoring was based on a scale of 1-10 per category. The dishes were judged on presentation, taste, creativity, and use of the secret ingredient. New Zealand Lamb a sweet, but potentially tough meat was the secret ingredient this year. They both had to make four dishes using the ingredient and one of the four dishes had to feature the nights sponsor Stella Artois. This year, the contestants had a second choice as they were introducing their new drink a European-styled cider called Stella Cidre.
When the clock started ticking , the chefs got down to business. Sautéing and cutting in a supersonic speed. Trying to get as much done as possible. Soon the grand ballroom at Ventana Canyon was filled with a the terrific smells of fresh vegetables and lamb.
By the time the hour was up, the chefs had finished plating their dishes and gave their dishes to the judges. The judges this year were Ken Harvey, the executive chef at Lowes Ventana Canyon. Noel Ridsdale the Academic Director of International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Tucson. Finally Alan Zeman, a chef consultant who travels the world teaching cooking classes.
Chef David Ferrara introduced his first dish, which was a won ton wrapper stuffed with lamb on top of a roasted beet and carrot with a balsamic prickly pear reduction. The second dish he made was a jicama slaw with braised lamb shoulder with basil oil. Third David made red lentils with bacon tomato relish with braised, crusted lamb. Fourth, he made kind of a dessert?. A apple chip with apricot glaze with lamb and brie.
Next up, Chef Ryan Clark made a tar tar with lean pieces of lamb shoulder with lime yogurt with a won ton garnish. Second he made a lettuce wrap with tender lamb leg, red lentils, and salad on top and some tomato jam with some spices. Third he made a braised lamb shoulder and leg with some citrus notes along with an apple stew salad with pickled apple peels with carrots . His fourth dish was a leg of lamb with a raspberry salt placed on top curry mashed potatoes.
The winner of this year's competition was Ryan Clark, for the third and final time. The rules stated that a chef can be in the competition only 3 times. Who knows what next years competition will bring. My bet is that the next secret ingredient will be papaya or squab.