In April 2016, members of Tavistock Country Club rolled up their sleeves and proved their kitchen prowess during an “Iron Chef”-style cooking competition.
At Tavistock Country Club in Haddonfield, N.J., members who usually dine in the ballroom provided a culinary twist in April 2016. Donning chef coats in lieu of sport coats or cocktail dresses, they rolled up their sleeves and proved their kitchen prowess during an “Iron Chef”-style cooking competition.
The idea came to fruition after a food-and-beverage committee member mentioned that her son and his friends (all of whom are Tavistock members) had held a similar event at home.
“The idea kept getting kicked around through several meetings, and we ultimately decided that we would take the concept to our entertainment committee for consideration,” says General Manager Colin Mack-Allen. Given that Tavistock holds between 60 to 70 member events each year, Mack-Allen was on the lookout for something fresh.
To help boost member interest, Mack-Allen and a representative from the entertainment committee began brainstorming about possible participants.
|THE GOAL: Find a way to hold a large-scale “Iron Chef”-style cooking competition at Tavistock CC.
THE PLAN: Use the ballroom dance floor as the cooking area, so attendees could walk the perimeter to view the three teams as they cooked. Station judges on a center stage and set up a “shopping area” for contestants’ materials.
THE PAYOFF: Rave reviews for the event—and a new dish for the club’s menu.
“We came up with members we knew had a passion for the culinary arts and had the on-stage presence we hoped would add to the evening’s festivities,” explains Mack-Allen. Once five members were onboard as competitors (along with the club’s chef, forming three teams of two), three members had signed on to serve as judges, and two had agreed to serve as emcees, the club sold tickets at $50 per person.
To transform the club ballroom, the dance floor was designated as the cooking area. Each team was given two eight-foot tables located around the perimeter, with two portable burners for cooking, a pot of boiling water, cutting boards, prep area and wash area. Judges were stationed onstage in the center of the ballroom with full access to the contestants, while the other side of the ballroom served as a shopping area for contestants, complete with a dairy fridge, produce, dry storage, plates, pans and other cooking gadgets.
“This setup allowed members in attendance to walk the entire perimeter, observing the courses being cooked and the chefs ‘shopping’ for ingredients,” notes Mack-Allen.
The week prior to the event, contestants had a chance to see how the ballroom would be set up and get a feel for the layout. They were also given the list of items that would be at their stations, and the details behind the judging process. They did not learn, however, what “mystery items” (pineapple and spam) would be incorporated into each of the competition’s courses.
“Our maintenance staff did an amazing job making the box we used to cover the mystery items, which added to the unveiling process,” Mack-Allen says.
The festivities kicked off with a wine tasting and specialty cocktails, with food stations and hors d’oeuvres. At 7 p.m., contestants had 30 minutes to prepare an appetizer for the first round and an entrée for the second, followed by judging for each round (the combined score from both rounds determined the winners).
Participants were judged for their dishes’ taste, appearance and creativity. The winning team members earned the honor of having one of their dishes featured on the club’s next menu. They also took home a bottle of wine and a special trophy fashioned from two miniature whisks mounted on a base.
With 140 members in attendance and rave reviews all around, Tavistock’s Iron Chef competition became a win-win. The club is currently exploring the possibility of a doing a children’s version in the future, Mack-Allen says.
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