Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Iron Chef Experience

When I got home after my Gyudon Eating adventure held at Yoshinoya in SM Megamall (read my previous blog entry), I had to prepare for yet, another mind-blowing, once-in-a-lifetime adventure at Dusit Thani the following day -- an on-the-spot cooking of my very own original recipes. But, let me tell you first how it all happened.

Last May 4, I got a call from the PR Dept. of Dusit Thani informing me that the recipes I submitted to them had been chosen as finalists for their Mother's Day Contest, "Mom's Best Original Home-Cooked Recipe." I couldn't believe that they picked my very own invented dishes, not to mention, simple dishes -- Baked Talakitok for the Main Dish Category and Pink Banana Float for the Dessert Category, which can be prepared for less than 15 minutes (excluding the baking and the chilling).

Feeling like a real chef

Okay, okay, I will not in any way pretend that I'm a good cook because I'm really not, although I aspire to be one as any mom would. But aside from that, I must confess that I rarely cook nowadays and have confidently delegated the task to my trusted helper, Nanet, who I taught and trained and now I think cooks better than me. So, the news about my being a "cooking finalist" came as a shocking yet welcome surprise. But, what made the good news nerve-wracking was the fact that the finalists would have to prepare and cook their recipes on-the-spot. Very similar to what the chefs do in one of my favorite cooking shows, Iron Chef. Oh my gulay! I was in for an iron chef experience!!

I took a leave of absence on the day of competition. I went to the market first thing in the morning to buy my main ingredients for the cooking challenge, 1/2 kilo of fillet talakitok and 1 kilo of latundan bananas. As soon as I got home, I prepared and placed all the ingredients in a small cooler. I was all set and ready to take another challenge.

Posing with my tot, just minutes before the start of my iron chef experience.

My two daughters accompanied me to Dusit Thani. They helped me carry all my stuff, kept me inspired all throughout the "clash of the cooks", and cheered me on when the judges were finally announcing the winners. My eldest even acted as my official photographer. On our way to Dusit Thani, I received a text message from my husband wishing me good luck and while my daughters were sleeping inside the cab, I said a simple prayer of thanksgiving.

I was (again), the last contender to arrive at Tosca, a fine dining restaurant inside Dusit Thani. I met the other two mom finalists and they both looked like good cooks. Before we were ushered to Tosca's kitchen, they first lent us an apron and a toque. Oh I felt like a real chef!

Since kids were not allowed inside the kitchen, I left my two daughters at Tosca's dining hall. We were given an hour to prepare and cook our dishes. As we were ushered into the kitchen, I still couldn't believe everything that was happening. "Was this for real?," I asked myself. I immediately thought of the movie Ratatouille and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the movie No Reservations. I was totally blown-away. I had never been inside a hotel kitchen before. That's why I couldn't believe that I would actually be preparing and cooking my inventions in one.

with my fellow mom finalists and Dusit Thani's resident manager

The heat was on...

The heat was on as soon as we stepped into the kitchen. The two other mom finalists were like pros, while me, I was like... in a daze. Winning the battle was not my main motivation. Again, I was after the experience of something new which not a lot of people would be given the opportunity to experience. The fact that I had been invited to cook in their kitchen was already a big thing for me.

Clockwise from top leftmost photo: inside the kitchen; my area/kitchen counter where I prepared my recipes; my baked talakitok inside the oven;
a photo with Tosca's chef

After just a few minutes, I was done assembling my Pink Banana Float and placed it immediately inside the chiller. Then, after 5 minutes, my talakitok was all set for baking. The hardest part was plating. I didn't even know which plates to use and believe me, there were so many kinds and shapes of plates in there. But there was a chef who suggested which plates to use for my two dishes. Thank you, chef!

The moment of truth
The taste tests and the judges' deliberation took a while. Finally, after almost two hours of waiting, they called on the awardees. Yes, the three of us were all winners! I was called in last for bagging the grand prize in the Dessert Category. Yippeeyayyey!! It was an overwhelming experience. I almost cried in front of everybody. I was extremely happy. My kids were so happy, too. They got even more excited when they saw the prizes that we would be taking home.

I was the last to be interviewed by the judges.

announcement of the winners

The awesome prizes and experience

Aside from the prizes which included an overnight accommodation (with breakfast buffet) in one of Dusit's Grand Rooms, a 90-minute Devarana Spa voucher, Pyrex dishes, Corelle bowls, Cookworks stainless steel casserole and frying pan, San Miguel gift pack, Del Monte gift pack, and a cookbook by one of the judges, Ms. Norma Chikiamco, our winning recipe would be served in their buffet line-up for one week, in time for Mother's Day at Basix Restaurant with a portrait of me and my kids. I was deeply overwhelmed and grateful to God for all of these.

I was called in last (again) for bagging the grand prize at the Dessert Category

Photo ops with everybody. This photo was taken by my eldest daughter.
Thanks so much, sweetie!

But more than the prizes, nothing could match the experience of being an iron chef...even for just 3 hours. Yes, the experience was rather short but nonetheless...SWEET! I am an Explorer and I use IE8.

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