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Competition brings out the inner chef among teens

Walker Doan, Madi Connolly and Katherine McPherson prepare their winning appetizer, entree and dessert at Iron Chef competition. The Pilot/Lorna Rodriguez

The challenge:

“Break into six teams. Teams of two, no more than four.”

“You have to make three things for each judge: three hors d’oeuvres, entrées and desserts. All three things must be the same.”


The materials:

“There are dessert, entrée and hor d’oeuvre plates, sticks, spices, dishes, serving implements ... candy bars, cookies, pudding cups, veggies, strawberries, Greek yogurt, meat, cheese, fruit cocktail, breads, a cutting station (and) paper towels on the end.”

“Any questions?” 

These are the instructions that Chetco Community Public Library Children’s Librarian Dori Blodgett gave 22 seventh through 12th graders in the library’s teen activity group (TAG) Wednesday before the start of the Iron Chef Competition.

Each team was given 50 minutes to finish the tasks at hand.

The criteria:

Ten points for taste and edibility, 5 points for plating and appearance and 5 points for creativity and originality.

Judges Diane Cavaness, Susan Dodgen and Bill Schlichting sampled every entry before selecting a winner.

By the time 50 minutes was up, the large meeting room was calm; when the competition began, however, the noise level rose a few decimals as the teens scrambled to select their ingredients, hurried to the cutting station and did their best to prepare various fruits and vegetables (some were much more successful than others) and discuss how best to impress the judges.

Throughout the preparation process, phrases such as “Oh no! There’s no more lettuce!” “I hate mushrooms!” and “How do you make Italian dressing?” could be heard.

Some strategies worked better than others.

An hors d’oeuvre made of Twizzlers, M & M’s and frosting left the judges a little puzzled.

Simple dishes ­– that did not include practically every ingredient on the table – left the judges wanting more.

Creative names such as “balsamic delight,” “candy mountain” and “sesame salad” impressed the judges.

After 50 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of judging, the winning team was announced: Madi Connolly, Katherine McPherson and  Walker Doan.

Each winner received a $5 gift card to Starbucks.

McPherson enjoyed the experience.

“It feels pretty good,” she said. “It was very fun, and it was a great experience, too. We had everybody work on one thing. We didn’t pressure each other.”

Doan agreed.

“We just kind of went at it. Divide and conquer,” he said.

Judge Diane Cavaness had a good time as well.

“I loved it. It was really fun,” she said. “The kids really got into it, and it was fun to see how serious they got.”

Her favorite part was the teens presenting the creations and telling the judges the names of them, she said.

Blodgett started the program last year after teens complained that there was nothing in the library for them, she said.

These teens had grown up attending library programs, and wanted to continue as young adults, Blodgett added.

After a little Internet and magazine research, Blodgett came up with a variety of activities.

Next week, they will create items out of duct tape.

“I think it was a roaring success,” Blodgett said of Wednesday’s competition.

TAG meets from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in the large meeting room of the library through Aug. 22.

For more information, call 541-469-7738.


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