Recap: Healthy Chef Challenge

On Saturday, April 7th, we fulfilled a year’s long dream to host an iron-chef inspired cooking competition using food pantry ingredients.  Over two rounds – one amateur, and one professional – home cooks and professional chefs competed to see who make the best entrée using only food pantry ingredients.  The event took place at the Nineteenth Century Club.

The night’s emcee was WBEZ’s own, Jennifer White.  Jenn is one of the hosts of The Morning Shift and the creator of the Making Oprah and Making Obama podcasts

Up first, local high school teachers squared off in the amateur competition using ground turkey, day-old bread, black beans, canned plums, and a secret ingredient, canned spinach.  All of these items are stapes at the Food Pantry, similar to those that we receive through the USDA and our local food bank. Bridget Dempsey from Trinity High School, Jim Geovanes from Oak Park and River Forest High School, and Dan Wnek from Fenwick High School were the competitors for this round.  Dan Wnek pulled out a win with his ground turkey lettuce wraps.  The judges were impressed with his creative use of ingredients, and his take on the healthy aspect of the competition.

Second to the plate were the professionals, including Chef Angie Montroy of Angie’s Pantry, Chef Gabriel Padilla of Rustico, and Chef David Rodriguez of Maya del Sol.  In addition to the aforementioned pantry ingredients, chefs had to incorporate spaghetti rings into their dishes.  Use of this unusual item ran the gamut, from fully embracing it in it’s current form, to making it unrecognizable.

Our judges for the night were a great group of local foodies.  The panel of four included: Emily Paster ( author and food blogger), Rob Poe  (“Chicago Mushroom Man” formerly of Carnivore) and Cathi Adduci (River Forest President) and Bob Tucker (Oak Park Village Trustee and former food writer).  These judges ranked the night’s dishes based on presentation, creativity, and taste.

Matt Kosterman of Matt Kosterman Photography and John Griffin of Griffin and Stebbing, captured the event in beautiful photos and video.

We were able to make this event zero waste with tremendous help from Mindy Agnew, of Oak Park Village Compostables Program.  With Mindy’s help, we were able to plan ahead to minimize our waste impact from the event. 

Of course, this event would not be possible without our sponsors.  Thanks to our Chef de Cuisine level sponsors, The Beckwith Family, Mb Financial Bank, and Riveredge Hospital.  Further thanks to our Sous Chef level sponsors, Adaptation Capital, Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, NowPow, Housing Forward, Rush Oak Park Hospital, and Shawnash Institute.  We truly couldn’t have made this event possible without their support.


Healthy Chef Challenge 2018