Once a year, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant’s head chefs line up to be crowned the annual Iron Chef. The contest, which hosts regionalized preliminary cook-offs and one seriously competitive finale, allows our company-wide chefs to skirt out-of-bounds and illustrate their remarkable talents through original recipes and preparations.
Of course, to keep things interesting, we elevated the in-house battle by throwing challenges, like secret ingredients and timed rounds, into mix. But, after a trio of impressive showcases featuring all of our 10 head chefs, only 3 deserving competitors moved on to the final championship.
The Competing Chefs
With the pressure on, three head chefs, Chestnut Hill’s Jared Cannon, North Wales’ Michelle Wilson and West Chester’s Anthony Young, stepped up to the chopping block on Tuesday, July 29, in hopes of being named 2014’s Iron Chef. The final challenge? To prepare three unique courses, two appetizers and an entree, all of which must make use of fresh peaches.
The very first competing dish always sets the pace for the competition ahead, and the high caliber of chef Jared’s prosciutto-wrapped grilled peaches, accented with queso fresco and date jam, piqued our palates, leaving us eager to see what was ahead.
Chef Anthony’s crispy and crunchy, peach- and pork-pumped empanadas, dancing in a pool of chive oil and peach gastrique, were equally as intriguing, a dish we wish we were biting into all summer long.
Then chef Michelle threw us for a loop with her creative spin on corn fritters, producing a feathery rendition punched with hunks of peach and accented with toasted pistachios and a flaky filo crown.
As if judging couldn’t be more a challenge, we moved onto our second wave of intriguing dishes.
With no peach preparation like the last, we were soon mesmerized by chef Jared’s vertical peach salad, as constructed on a foundation of grilled slices that sandwiched a generous chunk of pepper-accented goat cheese. Accompaniments of almond emulsion, honey vinaigrette and balsamic drizzle enhanced the overall experience, sending our taste buds through an enticing roller coaster of summer flavors and textures.
We were captivated by chef Michelle’s pork and peach pot stickers, which appeared eye-catchingly plated and possessed attractive accessories like a soy-ginger glaze and fried basil.
A perfect preparation of arancini appeared center-stage on chef Anthony’s second dish, neighboring a duo of seared scallops, charred peaches and a peach puree with chive oil. There wasn’t a judge in sight who rushed through this wholesome and decadent dish.
The third and final round may have been the most stressful for the judges, given the challenging task of comparing a remarkable inventory of well-curated, competitive plates.
Chef Michelle presented her final dish first, a soul-warming, refreshing execution of seared scallops cozy with gnocchi. Here, the starring mollusk was laced with a peach glaze and the air-light, pillowy pasta was infused with mint. But it gets better. A delicate peach brown butter was stealing the show on the entree, as was her mad scientist touch of IPA caviar gracing the scallops. The bitterness of the gelatinous beer mellowed the sweetness of the multi-levels of peach, creating an overall terrifically balanced composition.
Soon, chef Jared unleashed his tender, flavor-packed roasted pork, glazed with a punchy peach curry and layered atop a smoked peach chutney. The complementary, profound flavors kept the entree magnetizing, while the whimsical touches of petite peach balls and oven-dried peach chips allowed the entree to provide an overall convivial experience.
As the very last competing dish met our acquaintance, we couldn’t have been more pleased that chef Anthony chose to throw a cooly medium New York strip on the competitive pedestal. A sweetly spiked peach demi-glace puddle graced it underneath, joining a crowd that was double the peach pleasure—a blue cheese-stuffed halved peach and a charred peach-topped frisee salad.
After battling through the appetizing affair of judging nine competing Iron Chef dishes, we rallied—with score sheets—to narrow down the overall champion of 2014’s cook-off. With each chef deserving of a blue ribbon for overall showmanship, recipes, presentation and fine-tuned culinary skill sets, it was daunting task to crown the best in show.
And the Winner Is …
Congratulations to chef Jared Cannon, who distinguished himself as the premier competitor of 2014’s Iron Hill Iron Chef battle. The chef, who you can catch daily at our Chestnut Hill location, smoothly showcased his remarkable talents in creating thought-provoking, intensely flavorful dishes, repeatedly pushing us into culinary oblivion through each and every bite.
Bravo chef, your honor is well deserved!
With 10 locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey (make a reservation here), we specialize in handcrafted beers and fresh, from-scratch New American cuisine. Monthly releases vary by location, so scout out our beers on tap and visit us soon.
Content provided by Dish Works author Amy Strauss. Photography credited to Brian Penn Photography.