Cass County Democrat Missourian

Iron Chef-style challenge a sweet lure to library for Cass County teens

Harrisonville residents Charlie Taylor, 11, Olivia Shocklie, 11, and Saleah Maloney, 12, wait to hear the judges’ comments at the Teen Iron Chef competition Thursday afternoon.
Harrisonville residents Charlie Taylor, 11, Olivia Shocklie, 11, and Saleah Maloney, 12, wait to hear the judges’ comments at the Teen Iron Chef competition Thursday afternoon. Special to The Democrat

Tortillas, canned fruit and Twinkies might not be a combination you’ll see on any restaurant dessert menu, but it ruled the day at the Cass County Public Library’s teenage version of Iron Chef America last week.

The team of Brooklyn Morgan, 11, Scarlett Tracy, 12, and Adrianna Yelton, 12, got top marks with their entry, “Tortilla Party.” Each received a cookbook, a recipe journal and a wooden spoon as a prize.

“Honestly, we didn’t think we were going to win,” Brooklyn said.

Describing it to the judges, the girls said their entry was like a s’more with Twinkies inside a tortilla.

The competition, held at the library’s Harrisonville branch, drew 18 competitors who worked in teams of two or three. Because the library doesn’t have kitchens like the TV show, the competition was largely no-bake. Some competitors, including the winners, did take advantage of a small toaster oven.

“We just came in completely unknowing, not being able to cook. It’s a challenge,” said 14-year-old Gael Rios.

Available ingredients included marshmallows, vanilla pudding, chocolate sauce, graham cracker pie crusts and coconut.

“We threw everything on it,” said 12-year-old Saleah Maloney of her team’s coconut crumble.

There were a few rocky road moments, like when one of the tables holding the cooking tools collapsed right at the start of the competition. Since the cooking hadn’t quite started, no one’s food was ruined.

Another close call happened when Gael opened a strawberry-flavored sparkling water for the judges to pair with his team’s dish — and ended up with a fruit-flavored geyser instead. His teammate, 14-year-old Katie Semler, rushed in to save their s’mores-inspired pie from the downpour.

Every entry had to include a Twinkie, and halfway through their allotted cooking time, library assistant Shannon Julian announced a twist — each team had to pick a canned fruit and include it in their dishes. That left them to integrate pears, mandarin oranges, pineapple, mango or peaches into their desserts.

Although they’ve never had an Iron Chef competition before, Julian said that she did have a Cupcake Wars-inspired program a few years ago that was very popular. Despite their enthusiasm for the competition, most of the teens said they prefer watching cantankerous TV chef Gordon Ramsay to Iron Chef.

Julian said she hopes that “the program will open their eyes to the possibilities of what they can do, and they’ll go on cooking.”

And a program about food isn’t a hard sell for teenagers.

“They like competing with each other, and if you mention food, they’re going to be there,” Julian said.

The teens weren’t allowed to use their phones to look up ideas once the competition started.

“It should come from your heart, not the internet,” she told them.

Three library employees judged the show: children’s specialist Sara Steinmetz, business manager Lori Schneider and branch manager Karen Allen. They weighed the merits of each entry, based on creativity, taste and presentation.

“It’s a challenge to get kids this age to the library,” Schneider said.

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