Many moons ago before I was in business school and had time to watch television, I remember hearing about a show called Iron Chef. I never really got into the show because it seemed highly technical, and since I knew absolutely nothing about cooking, I opted for the less technical, more dramatic reality show Top Chef. However, every time I go home for the holidays and dare join my father in the kitchen, he is always wearing his chef’s hat that says Iron Chef Daddy, and since he is a devoted Food Channel disciple, he always has on Iron Chef in the background. As I wound my way between the Fuqua Iron Chef teams the other week, I couldn’t help but think of how jealous my dad would be. The school’s version of the show is a tradition that pits student teams against each other.

The air outside the Fox Center was unusually scented with spices and herbs from around the world, creating a cacophony of sensations as I perused each table. Atop each surface were even more sensational ingredients, lumpy brown roots and soft white proteins, most of which I’ve never seen gracing the shelves of my local market. You could tell each team had their own strategy for beating the competition as they whispered quietly with one another and tied each other into aprons. Perhaps some of the teams thought these mystery ingredients would give them an extra edge. But of course this is all speculation because no one wanted to divulge their secret plans to me!

Tejesvi Ayyagari and Jean Gan
Tejesvi and Jean, part of the MMS Iron Chef team.

A woman with a megaphone shouted that the teams had 30 minutes to prepare one of the courses, and the courtyard erupted in a bedlam of noise, metal spatulas scraping skillets and frenzied chatter between teammates.

The lovely MMS team was well represented, the bench stacked with heavy hitters from the Connoisseurs Club. Headed by Jiali and Jean, the club decided to prepare their dishes in a simple Asian style, so they devised a 3 course menu reflecting this theme, which had some pretty complicated ingredients — like edible flowers — for something that was supposed to be rustic Asian fare.

My view might be slightly skewed, because while I am able to sit in the kitchen while my father does his thing with a wok, I am stilled banned from doing any cooking in our house. This ban was unjustly implemented after my parents visited me on a snowy weekend at law school in Pennsylvania. While boiling water for tea, I literally set the stove on fire. It wasn’t pretty …

The teams were given $75 bucks to do their best to find ingredients at the grocery store. Our team pulled out all the stops and bought from Whole Foods, but some ingredients, teammate Tracy Jim said, were from the Chinese market. For instance, Chinese ginger root, which I’m told is used in Chinese medicine, can’t be found on even the trendiest, most obscure shelves of the Whole Foods market.

Although the MMS team didn’t win the top prize, I am seriously impressed with their skills with a skillet. You guys are welcome in my kitchen any time!

Beautiful and Delicious

2013 MMS Iron Chef Menu

Appetizer: Phoenix Wings and Ginger Crumble Salad Wings glazed with coke and soy sauce, with a hint of red ginger. Paired with a salad topped with ginger crumbles.

Entrée: Super MMS Style Stewed Chicken. Chicken infused with fresh ginger, green onion, garlic, and herbs, stewed and simmered to perfection for a delightful aroma.

Dessert: Milk of Ginger Pudding. An innovative Chinese treat blending fresh milk and ginger juice in a “magical” combination. Topped with mint, fruit and chocolate powder.