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Former pros win Expo's Iron Chef

July 17, 2010|By DON AINES
  • Teams in the Iron Chef 2010 Cook-off, a new event at the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair, prepare a three-course meal for the judges Saturday at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.
Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

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There were no celebrity judges on hand nor river eel on the list of ingredients, but the inaugural Iron Chef competition at the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair drew a crowd, perhaps drawn by the aromas wafting from the grills of the five teams.

Chef X, a team composed of two ex-chefs and their wives, scored a perfect 100 points to take home the first-place trophy and the grill upon which they produced their winning appetizer, entree and dessert.

Jeff and Anne Weimer and Mark and Anna Pastoral wowed the judges with a grilled chicken quesadilla with peach salsa; spaghetti-cut squash in a tomato boat with pesto sauce; grilled ribeye steak sliced thin with a roasted garlic demiglace; potato rosti; and a grilled peach tart.

At noon, Chef X and the four other teams -- Purple Cauliflower, Alf Marketing, The FFAers and Antietam View -- all were presented with the same locally grown and raised ingredients -- thick-cut ribeye steaks, chicken breasts, bacon, new potatoes, tomatoes, squash, peaches, blueberries and blackberries, said Leslie Hart, a Washington County agricultural marketing specialist.

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The teams had a few hours to stew over possible recipes before arriving at the Red Men Pavilion, where they had 2 1/2 hours to prepare the three-course meals and present them to judges Ricky Hart, Cookie Reed-Vargason and Melinda McClain.

Some of the culinary creations were a bit off the wall, but not off-putting. Carolyn Etzler, the chef for Alf Marketing, offered members of the audience a taste of her chocolate-dipped bacon, while Antietam View chef Mike Drake gave out samples of his chicken and blueberry sausage.

The recipes and the donors of the meats and produce will be posted on the expo's website, http://www.agexpoandfair.org, Hart said.

"In a nutshell, we're ex-chefs. We're food junkies," Jeff Weimer said.

Jeff Weimer and Mark Pastoral had, at different times, been chefs at the former Burhans Station, but the rest of the contestants were amateurs, ranging from 14-year-old Kristen Peake, chef of the Purple Cauliflower team, to Drake, a farmer.

Drake's team, which included Lisa Drake, Megan Drake and Ryan Shank, placed second with a menu that included roasted corn and tomato salsa, eggs Blackstone, steak with grilled onions and peach barbecue sauce, and a blueberry and blackberry cobbler topped with homemade ice cream.

"The mix of participants has been wonderful. We go from teens to experienced chefs," Hart said.

Similar Iron Chef-style competitions have been going on at the Howard County Fair for a number of years and proved to be very popular, so it seemed like a good addition to the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair, Hart said.

A big surprise to Mike Drake and Jeff Weimer was the absence of one local ingredient. They both thought corn would was a given.

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