The Hippo


May 27, 2020








The NH Food Bank’s 2016 Steel Chef Challenge. Courtesy photo.

Steel Chef Challenge

When: Monday, March 6, at 6 p.m. 
Where: Radisson Hotel Manchester Downtown, 700 Elm St., Manchester
Cost: $125 per person. Tickets are limited. Purchase online by Saturday, March 4. 

Heated competition
Food Network chef hosts cooking challenge for NH chefs

By Angie Sykeny

 Foodies and fans of competitive cooking shows can get a taste of a live chef competition and experience the action up close at the New Hampshire Food Bank’s second annual Steel Chef Challenge, happening Monday, March 6, at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester. 

Modeled after Food Network programs like Chopped and Iron Chef, the Steel Chef Challenge invites four local chefs to face off in a timed cooking challenge in front of a live audience. Celebrity chef Robert Irvine from the Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible, Restaurant Express and Dinner: Impossible will host the event and prepare, with the help of his team, a gourmet meal to be served to the guests as they watch the competition. 
“We’ve always wanted to do an Iron Chef-type event,” said New Hampshire Food Bank Director of Development Nancy Mellitt. “For sponsors and supporters of the food bank, for foodies interested in cooking and for fans of Robert Irvine and the Food Network, it’s a good time for a good cause.” 
For the challenge, the stage in the Radisson’s Armory Ballroom will be transformed into a simple kitchen with some essential appliances and a cooking station for each chef. The chefs will have 20 minutes to create a dish using a set of secret ingredients revealed by Irvine as well as a main meat selected by the audience. Contestants will also have access to a basic selection of produce and spices that they can add to their dish if they choose. 
“Last year, the secret ingredients were Lucky Charms, Coke and pickled pigs’ feet, so it will be interesting to see what we have this year,” Mellitt said. “It’s fun to see the chefs’ creativity and how they all come up with different dishes and prepare a dish with no recipe.”
During the competition, guests will be served a three-course meal designed and prepared by Irvine and his team with the help of a few non-competing local chefs. 
The top chef will be chosen by a judges panel consisting of WMUR anchor Erin Fehlau, wine specialist for Martignetti Companies of New Hampshire Craig Pierce and owner of Michael Timothy’s Dining Group restaurants Michael Buckley. The judges will taste and evaluate each dish based on flavor, texture, presentation and creativity in utilizing the secret ingredients. The winner will be announced at the end of the night and awarded a Steel Chef engraved chef’s knife. 
The chefs chosen to compete this year include Jason Seavey, executive chef at Havenwood Heritage Heights in Concord; Tony Bomba, chef at Lago Restaurant in Meredith; Evan Hennessey, chef and co-owner of Stages at One Washington in Dover; and Bryan Leary, executive chef at the Inn at Pleasant Lake in New London. 
A total of 14 chefs applied; to qualify, applicants must be active, professional-level chefs currently employed at a New Hampshire establishment. The committee charged with choosing the four chefs conducted a series of phone and in-person interviews, looking for chefs who exhibit a high level of culinary creativity, a vibrant personality and excellent stage presence.
“I know it was very difficult for [the committee] to whittle it down to just four people,” Mellitt said. “There are so many talented chefs in New Hampshire.”
For general updates about the event and profiles of this year’s competing chefs, follow the hashtag #SteelChef on social media. 

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