The inaugural Iron Fork Syracuse proved a culinary success
Stick an Iron Fork in it: It’s done, and it was a rousing success. The inaugural Iron Fork Syracuse, a culinary competition held Sunday, Jan. 29, at Syracuse University’s Schine Student Center, featured 12 teams of professional chefs vying for a trophy, plaque, prizes and, most importantly, bragging rights until next year rolls around.
The event—organized by John Reule, executive chef at Wise Guys Bistro; Chance Bear, chef at Francesca’s; Mary Kiernan, representing the American Culinary Foundation, Syracuse chapter; and Jeremy Patterson, chef at Camillus Country Club—benefited the Rescue Mission.
The chefs’ creations were judged based on flavor, presentation and creativity, all while using the secret ingredient: fennel. The vegetable that looks like flouncy celery and tastes like licorice made for a formidable culinary task. Furthering the challenge, all dishes had to be ready in 50 minutes, at which point the judges took over.
The Food Network’s Anne Burrell, WSYR-Channel 9’s Carrie Lazarus and Don Cazentre of The Post-Standard, had the enviable task of tasting an appetizer, an entrée and a chef’s choice dish using the fennel. Burrell, who grew up in Cazenovia, played the rock star-chef role well, wearing high-wedge, open-toed shoes that didn’t seem to affect her gait—however, she was spotted at one point removing a shoe to rub her toes.
Lazarus exchanged pleasantries with Burrell during the event. “I learned so much from her,” the news anchor admitted.
A huge screen inside Schine’s Goldstein Auditorium showed the chefs moving efficiently within the compact area, like a company of ballet dancers who know that each step has to be calibrated into an allotted time. The camera was also poised on the judges’ table as the chefs presented their individual dishes. Event emcees—and local foodies—Rochelle Bilow and Chris Xaver gave a running commentary on the proceedings, but a less-than-perfect sound system impeded their delivery.
VIP ticket holders paid $75 for the privilege of moving through a host of vendors plying their wares on the upper level of the room, tasting cheeses, sweets and other bite-size morsels and enjoying libations from Wagner Vineyards. The $20 group sat in the upper gallery, peering down at the activity below.
Results were announced at 3:30 p.m., with first prize going to Cazenovia’s Brewster Inn, headed by executive chef Jason Wright, with help from chefs Steven Franks and David France. The winning menu consisted of deconstructed scallop and citrus fennel salad and braised leg of lamb with fresh cheese ravioli and fennel brown butter. Chef’s choice featured a tasting menu of pine nut and fennel tart, chicken skin-wrapped grouper with pickled fennel and apple fennel sherbet.
Second prize went to Sysco Syracuse, which supplies many area restaurants, and may want to consider suggesting their menu to their customers. They used lots of the secret ingredient in fennel-infused apple carpaccio with fennel slaw, seared scallop and fennel frond emulsion. Then there was fennel-crusted grouper, roasted fennel and tomato coulis, zucchini and fennel fritta, and a fennel cake-and-ice-cream.
Third award went to the Century Club of Syracuse, headed by Brian
Antinore and assisted by chefs Debbie Sallo and Dan Becket. The bill of
fare started with shrimp dumpling with fennel salad and fennel jus,
prosciutto wrapped chicken, fennel gnocchi, fennel puree and fennel
Dessert was fennel upside-down cake, with fennel caramel and fennel ice cream.
Winners were awarded with knives and trophies for their efforts along with embossed chef coats, presented by Spinnaker Custom Products, which is owned by Syracuse New Times publisher Bill Brod.
“I had a great time,” said chef Jason Wright about winning, but also about the event overall. Added Antinore: “The 50 minutes went by in a flash. I am already looking forward to next year.”
While everyone concurred that Iron Fork Syracuse enjoyed impressive
success, there is talk that next year’s event will be held at SU’s
Manley Field House, affording more room for guests and competitors.
Here’s hoping the sound system will be better as well.