San Diego Students to Compete in 12th Annual ‘Teen Iron Chef' Showdown

Teams of students from Hoover, Garfield, Madison, Morse and Scripps Ranch high schools will compete in the culinary competition, whipping up gourmet, three-course meals with a "secret ingredient:"

Some of San Diego’s top professional chefs will serve as judges Thursday for the 12th Annual “Teen Iron Chef Competition” showcasing up-and-coming culinary talent.

The cooking competition – now in its 12th year – will feature teams of high school students from San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Culinary Arts and Management program going head-to-head as they prepare a top-notch, three-course meal that incorporates a “secret ingredient,” which will be announced at the challenge.

That secret ingredient – which is different each year – must be folded into at least one of the teams’ three courses. In year’s past, organizers say some secret ingredients have been calamari, brie, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, cantaloupe and tofu.

According to organizers, the students’ dishes will be judged by a panel of reputable food experts, including Chef Bernard Guillas, executive chef of The Marine Room, Chef Deborah Scott, of the Cohn Restaurant Group and Larry Lewis, program director and senior executive chef of the San Diego Culinary Institute – just to drop a few names.

Organizers say the competition is supported by the San Diego County Chapter of the California Restaurant Association, and is based on the Food Network hit, “Iron Chef America.” Teams of students from Hoover, Garfield, Madison, Morse and Scripps Ranch high schools will compete.

The battle will be held at the Jack in the Box Innovation Center on Spectrum Center Boulevard, with students arriving at 3:30 p.m. to set up. The secret ingredient will then be announced and, at 3:40 p.m. sharp, the one-hour timed competition begins, which includes all cutting, mixing and food preparation.

According to organizers, teams are allowed to buy their ingredients, portion their protein and measure any dry or liquid ingredients the day before the big competition. However, they aren’t allowed to do any actual cooking, pre-baking or pre-mixing before the showdown.

They can have their recipes or prep-lists at their cooking stations during the event.

By 5 p.m., the students should be finished plating their masterpieces and will then present their dishes to the judges’ panel. At 6 p.m., the winning “Teen Iron Chef” team will be crowned and presented with the coveted “giant fork” trophy.

According to the SDUSD, the culinary challenge was created by Zhee Zhee Aguirre, a College, Career & Technical Education (CCTE) teacher who wanted her students to experience competitive cooking.

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