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Iron Chef competition comes to Washington County Ag Expo & Fair

July 11, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • Who will be the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair's next Iron Chef?
Photo illustration,

The flames will fly Saturday at what is being billed as the Iron Chef 2010 Cook-off, one of many newcomers to the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair schedule.

The Washington County Ag Expo & Fair begins Friday, July 16, and continues through Thursday, July 22, at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center grounds, south of Hagerstown.

"Food shows are kind of a hot item right now," said Daphne Sigler, board president Washington County Agricultural Organization, of the group that organizes Ag Expo.

Chef teams will have 90 minutes to create a three-course meal - three servings of each - using a list of ingredients they get the day of the event. A three-judge panel will then vet the appearance, taste, texture, aroma and creativity of the dishes and pick a winner.

More will be at stake than burnt steak for the contestants.

"The winner gets a grill," said agricultural marketing specialist Leslie Hart, whose office is coordinating the contest.

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Organizers have given the competition an agritourism spin: All of the ingredients will come from local farmers. "My job is to connect consumers with agriculture and agriculture to consumers," Hart said.

Sigler said last year's Ag Expo drew 11,1000 attendees. "Farming's so labor intensive, it's hard for farmers to get face time with consumers," Sigler said.

Hart borrowed the idea from the Howard County Fair, which has hosted a Iron Chef-style competition.

But the concept comes from a popular TV show.

"Iron Chef America" is a Food Network adaptation of a culinary game show in Japan in which world-class chefs compete at Kitchen Stadium and have to turn out dishes with tricky secret ingredients.

Contestants in the Ag Expo's version will compete in an outdoor pavilion. They'll get a gas grill, a scant amount of cooking gear and four hours before the 3:30 p.m. start time to devise a strategy, Hart said.

The official rules offered few hints as to what ingredients contestants would be provided - hence the element of surprise - except to say the teams would get "at least three local meats for grilling, at least three local vegetables and at least three local fruits."

Hart was a bit more helpful.

"We're going to give them some strange cuts of meat," Hart said. "Strange" could mean bison meat or it could mean quail eggs, Hart said, though as of Tuesday morning organizers had yet to settle on a official ingredients list.

The deadline to enter is July 13, Hart said.

Carolyn Etzler, 58, said she hopes hours of watching reality cooking shows such as Bravo TV's "Top Chef" and Food Network's "Iron Chef" will pay off with a win at the Ag Expo's Iron Chef 2010 Cook-off.

Etzler, who lives east of Hagerstown, has already earned a reputation for her baking. She was the grand champion winner for the 2009 Ag Expo's Baked Goods and Candies division thanks to a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache topping.

Her topsy-turvy apple pie won the 2008 Herald-Mail pie contest.

"I like contests," Etzler said, adding that this type of contest is new for her.

Etzler entered the competition with her partner John Doyle, 66, her sons, Donnie and Chris, and Doyle's daughter, Paula Main.

"This weekend we're going to do a run through," said Etzler, who's the team's chief cook. "And bottle washer." She laughed.

To prepare, Etzler said she's been researching atypical meats and tinkering with sauces - contestants are allowed to bring premade sauces on the day of the event.

"I've been doing my homework," Etzler said.




If you go ...



WHAT: Iron Chef 2010 Cook-off at the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair

WHEN: 3:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 17. Chef teams must register by Tuesday, July 13. Call Leslie Hart 301-791-1504 for information.

WHERE: Washington County Agricultural Education Center grounds, 7313 Sharpsburg Pike, seven miles south of Hagerstown. The Iron Chef Cook-off will be held at the Red Men Pavilion.

COST: Ag Expo admission costs $2; free admission for children 8 and younger. Team registration requires a $50 fee, which is refunded on competition day.

MORE: Call Leslie Hart 301-791-1504 for information. The full fair schedule is at http://www.agexpoandfair.org .

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