2024 cast iron food story

Cast Iron Competition: A food Story

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SAIT Chef, Desmond Johnston, was the first manager and organizer of the Cast Iron Competition in the 2000’s. He was a former competitor himself and he recalls the heyday of competitions at SAIT during that time. Every other competition be it Skills Canada, the Jr Chef Challenge locally, or larger international competitions had age restrictions and Canadian citizenship restrictions. The Cast Iron Competition was incepted as an option for those who were not permitted to compete in anything else. At its heart, it is meant to be inclusive of everyone. The whole competition is a day of fun, trying new things, and meeting new people. Alumni, industry chefs, and friends and family like to come cheer on the teams.

The current rules for the competition are:

  • 3 teams of 4: 2 Culinary Arts students, 1 Baking and Pastry Arts student, 1 alumni (teams are drawn that morning)
  • Mandatory secret “black box” ingredients revealed: flat iron steak, ricotta cheese, naval oranges, baguette, baby carrots, Thai basil, fresh ginger root. All other ingredients and cooking methods are fair game.
  • Teams must make 3-course meal: 2 plates appetizer (hot or cold), 2 plates hot main course, 2 plates dessert
  • Teams have 2.5 hours until the first course must be presented and then 15 minutes for each consecutive course
  • Competitors are critiqued by both kitchen judges and tasting judges who are given the plates “blindly”, not knowing which team created which dishes.
  • Results are tabulated and the top team is announced and the trophy and prizes are awarded

No, the cooking is not all done on cast iron. The original prize was a cast iron pan, intended to be a useful prize. How nice! That’s where the name of the competition comes from. In the fall of 2018, Chefs Vanessa Mendoza and Rosalyn Ediger resurrected the competition with Chef Desmond’s blessing and a slightly modified list of rules. A cast iron pan was created into a trophy by SAIT alumnus Darcy Lane and now each winning team gets their names engraved on a plaque. With the exception of a pause during the Covid-19 pandemic, a new troupe of competitors take part every Open House at SAIT and the tradition lives on.

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Written by Food Stories