Steel Chef Challenge Pits Culinary Arts Instructors Against Each Other to Raise Money for FCA

Steel Chef Challenge Pits Culinary Arts Instructors Against Each Other to Raise Money for FCA

Sara Plummer
Steel Chef Challenge Pits Culinary Arts Instructors Against Each Other to Raise Money for FCA

Two chefs will enter the kitchen, but only one will leave the champion after the first-ever Steel Chef Challenge on March 1.

Chefs Jason Marsh and Grady Perryman, both instructors in OSU Institute of Technology’s School of Culinary Arts, will battle it out as they prepare an appetizer, main dish and dessert in just over one hour. All three courses must also incorporate a mystery ingredient that the chefs learn about only 15 minutes before the competition starts. And all in front of an audience.

The premise should sound familiar, at least to fans of the show “Iron Chef,” which the Steel Chef Challenge is loosely based.

The competition begins at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, March 1, in the Skills Kitchen in the Culinary Arts building. The community is invited to watch the chefs cook and create while having lunch prepared and provided by the Future Chefs Association. Lunch tickets are $5, but the competition is free to attend.

The idea for the competition was born from students debating with each other on which of their instructors would win if pitted against each other.

It started out as a joke, but it turned into something we actually thought would work, said James Wegner, a culinary student and FCA member.

Wegner and fellow student and FCA member Johnie Towns developed the idea and brought it to FCA faculty advisors Chef Brenda Nimmo and Celia Melson who helped organize the event.

The Steel Chef Challenge will take over the Skills Kitchen and at 11 a.m., the chefs will learn what the mystery ingredient is that they will have to incorporate into all their dishes.

“It all boils down to cooking method versus ingredient. Depending on the ingredient, it will dictate the cooking method and at that point you just move forward,” said Marsh, who added he’s not nervous about the competition. “I have been in the industry for well over 20 years, actually doing the job, so I am pretty confident in my abilities.”

Three judges will critique each dish on originality, plating and taste. Dean of the School of Culinary Arts Chef Rene Jungo, advisory board member and Tulsa-area Chef Eli Huff, and Vice President of Student Services Ina Agnew will serve as judges for the event.

Instructor Chef Aaron Ware will serve as commentator during the competition.

Towns and Wegner said the students are really looking forward to watching their instructors work against the clock and each other.

“I’m looking forward to seeing them work under pressure. Here in the Culinary Arts program, you can develop a good relationship with the instructors, you can joke with them, but once it’s crunch time, they’ll take it seriously,” Wegner said. “They’re going to have to go into their bag of tricks. I’m interested to see what they come up with.”

Towns is looking forward to seeing how his instructors, professional chefs, practice what they preach.

The things they’ve taught us, we’ll get to see them do those things in action, he said. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

And that’s the main goal, Wegner said.

“Yes, it’s a fundraiser for FCA, but it’s more about having fun, getting the students and campus together,” he said. “We’re hoping it becomes an annual event.”