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The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Iron Chef

Send the kids to cooking camp, and they come back with the skills to organize a Chinese banquet?


This summer, Pali's Overnight Adventures in Lake Arrowhead is offering a culinary camp for kids. This camp teaches kids, ages 9 to 16, the fundamentals of cooking. They will spend their time with professionals in the industry, learning and honing their cooking techniques.

Each day has a theme. Children will learn how to throw a Superbowl party, prepare a Sunday brunch and organize a Chinese banquet. At the end of the session, kids will participate in an "Iron Chef"-style challenge. They will be given a secret ingredient and then proceed to create a dish.

The camp is divided into one- and two-week sessions, running through August. For more information or to sign up, visit www.paliadventures.com. Do you know any other culinarily-minded ways to keep the kids occupied this summer? Let us know in the comments section.


Camping food

Red, White and Blueberry Burger

Interview with Alex Reznik

--Leah Rodrigues


Photo Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune

Season 3 of 'The Next Iron Chef' begins Sunday -- and there's a ringer

Andrew Kirschner, the executive chef at Wilshire in Santa Monica, took his place among the other nine  competitors for Season 3 of “The Next Iron Chef” and thought: "There must be some kind of a mistake."

Standing in the midst of all the hopefuls was chef Ming Tsai. “I thought, is this for real? I thought he must be one of the judges,” Kirschner says.

Others were a little more pointed in their reaction. New York chef Marco Canora sizes up the field this way: “There’s nine of us and then there’s him.” Adds Houston chef Bryan Caswell: “Ming Tsai? C’mon. Is that fair?”

As the third season of the hit Food Network show gets underway Sunday at 9 p.m., it's nabbed its highest profile chef yet: Ming is the author of several cookbooks; he helped introduce the masses to Asian cooking with the Emmy-winning “East Meets West” on the Food Network; he currently has his own show on PBS, “Simply Ming”; he’s a James Beard award winner; and his Blue Ginger is one of the most popular restaurants in Boston.

So why is he putting himself on the line, risking an upset from an upstart that would be all the more embarrassing given his comfortable perch high atop the culinary landscape?  "I'm not trying to prove to the world that I can cook,” Ming says. “I'm doing this to prove to myself that I've still got game."

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President Obama teaches Bobby Flay a thing or two about grilling

Michelle Obama and Iron Chef team

We knew President Obama was a foodie, who at one point in his life even reviewed restaurants.

But who knew the prez has mad grilling skilz?

Chef Bobby Flay was speaking to the news media recently about Sunday night's special two-hour episode of "Iron Chef America," which goes to the White House for the first time. First Lady Michelle Obama will issue the challenge: Competitors are invited to pluck whatever they like from America's most famous garden and prepare five dishes that epitomize the ultimate American meal. Back in Kitchen Stadium, Flay and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford will go up against Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse. Judges include celebuchef Nigella Lawson, actress Jane Seymour and Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin. (Read more about Sunday night's show here.) 

During the media call, Flay noted that he had been to the White House before, invited to take part in an Obama initiative to mentor young men. While there, he struck up a conversation with the White House pastry chef who revealed that President Obama is quite at home in the kitchen and "can talk about banana cream pie for a really long time." At one point during the cookout portion of the mentoring event, Flay found himself -- where else? -- manning the barbecue. And out of the corner of his eye he saw the president walking toward him.

What was Flay thinking? "OK, here is the leader of the free world about to grab a pair of tongs with me. What am I supposed to do?"

As an icebreaker, Flay told Obama that he'd heard through the grapevine that the president was quite knowledgeable about food and cooking. The president struck a modest reply, "'Oh, no, I don't know much about it, but I'm interested,'" Flay recalled.

A moment later, Flay started to offer the president some gentle suggestions about what to do next at the barbecue. The president, Flay recalled, told him he needn't bother: "Hey, I know what I'm doing."

-- Rene Lynch

Photo: Check out chef Mario Batali's orange Crocs. Do you think he and Michelle Obama coordinated colors? From left, chefs Bobby Flay and Cristeta Comerford, "Iron Chef America" MC Alton Brown, the first lady, Batali and chef Emeril Lagasse. Credit: Food Network

'The Next Iron Chef': It's Jehangir vs. Jose

Jehangir-&-Jose-3_Ep-8 For Chef Jose Garces, it was a curdled flan. For Chef Jehangir Mehta, it was the grape leaves.

The last two chefs standing in the battle to become "The Next Iron Chef" say they are haunted by such flops as they head into Sunday night's finale on the Food Network. The Season 2 winner will join an elite stable of champions including Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay and Cat Cora. These culinary warriors are the ones to beat on the popular Food Network game show "Iron Chef America."

But the title goes beyond a TV game show. The winner gains immediate fame thanks to a singular standing on the Food Network platform, and fortune is not far behind.

That's a chief reason why many of the competitors -- all successful chefs in their own right -- risked all to join the competition.

"It's a huge risk to go on the show and possibly be eliminated early ... or be displayed in a negative light," said Chef Garces. "But [if you win] it brings a lot of prestige, it's an honor and a privilege to be an 'Iron Chef.' ... It's very good for business as well, let's be honest. I have six restaurants, so having that title would be great." Read more here:

Photo: Chef Garces, left, and Chef Mehta. Photo credit: Food Network

Michelle Obama welcomes 'Iron Chef America'

The Biggest Loser's
Michelle Obama's White House garden is having quite a week.

The garden played a starring role in Tuesday night's episode of "The Biggest Loser," and today Food Network announced it will also take center stage in a special episode of "Iron Chef America." Chefs Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse go to D.C. where they will be greeted by the First Lady and joined by White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford for a Super Chef Battle.

The chairman's challenge: Create a meal for America using The White House Kitchen Garden’s produce as their secret ingredients. The episode premieres Sunday, January 3rd.

According to Food Network, the chefs will be allowed to use anything found in the White House Kitchen Garden to help them create their meals. It will be Flay and Comerford against Batali and Lagasse. Each team must come up with five dishes that showcase their garden fresh ingredients and best represent "the ultimate American meal."

The judges include: chef and best-selling cookbook author Nigella Lawson; Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin; and actress, author and designer Jane Seymour.

--Rene Lynch

Join us on Twitter @latimesfood and Facebook at facebook.com/latimesfood

Photo credit: NBC Universal

Market Watch: Penryn Orchard Specialties continues a tradition of 'mountain-grown' fruits


Jeff Rieger's commute each week to the Santa Monica farmers market from his farm in Placer County -- 924 miles round trip -- is probably the longest regularly undertaken by any vendor at a Southern California certified market. He is driven by a passion to grow and market rare and high-quality fruits, all the more remarkable since he got into farming almost by accident.

It was the mandarins that hooked him. For 23 years he had lived near Lake Tahoe, first skiing, then painting houses, then building them on speculation. When Rieger and his girlfriend at the time bought a 4.3-acre property in Penryn, in the Sierra foothills northeast of Sacramento, in November 2002, he intended to fix up the house and flip it for a profit. But the owner had left the crop of satsuma mandarins on the trees, and Rieger started picking them and bringing them to a local store. Soon he split with the girlfriend and fell in love with the farm, which he named Penryn Orchard Specialties. Read more here.

And check out this photo gallery -- gorgeous images of the fruit produced at Penryn.


Explore your local farmers market

Cooking through the seasons -- recipes included

More recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

Market Watch: More columns by David Karp

Photo caption: Jeff Rieger's girlfriend, Laurence Hauben, at the farm. Photo credit: David Karp.

'Next Iron Chef': The Foundry's Eric Greenspan is in the hunt


Is Eric Greenspan your new "culinary warrior?"

Kitchen Stadium is back. The new season of Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef" starts Oct. 4. It's hosted by Alton Brown, and the competitors were announced this week: The Foundry's chef-owner Eric Greenspan is among them, as is Nate Appleman, formerly of San Francisco's A16. (That guy is having quite the year -- he nabbed the James Beard award for rising star, as well as similar honors from Food & Wine magazine.) Another note of L.A. interest -- the sleek, well-stocked kitchen viewers will see is located on a set outside downtown L.A.

These chefs wanted for nothing: Each station was decked out with, among other things, a sous vide water bath. Also going head to head with Greenspan and Appleman is a face that will be familiar to fans of "Chopped." It's Chef Amanda Freitag. Guess this is one judge who doesn't mind having the tables turned.

-- Rene Lynch

Photo: Eric Greenspan at the Foundry

Sorry makeover artists, Mario Batali's not parting with those orange Crocs

Mario-batali Chefs spend hours in the kitchen, sweating over a hot stove for your feast. Do they really care what they look like back there? Mario Batali sure doesn't. He'll even tout his famous jailhouse orange Crocs around town.

On Tuesday night at the Can-Do Awards, which benefit the Food Bank for New York City, the Iron Chef told Fashion Week Daily to step off. Fashionable or not, he's gonna rock those trademark Crocs:

"Crocs are my signature, and I take a beating on your blogs about it! All fashion blogs think these shoes are the ultimate problem. I wear them because they’re the most comfortable thing and I don’t give a .... about fashion. I like fashion on other people.”

Turns out whether he cares about it or not, Mario's a fashion trendsetter. Orange was all the rage at the fall 2009 New York Fashion Week men's shows.

-- Whitney Friedlander

Join us on Twitter @LATimesFood

Photo: Chef Mario Batali attends the sixth-annual Can-Do Awards dinner and auction hosted by the Food Bank for New York City. Credit: Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

Sampler Platter: Curry summit, National Beer Day, Cat Cora and the MIT chocolate lab

Jungle curry with pork at Jitlada Thai Restaurant in Hollywood. (Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

A big, fat, juicy dose of food news...

  • Inside MIT's Laboratory for Chocolate Science. Yes, that is a real place. Boston Globe
  • Iron Chef Cat Cora's partner, Jennifer, gives birth to the couple's third child. Cora is expecting the couple's fourth child in June. Huffington Post
  • Chefs at British "curry summit" call for national college dedicated to Indian cookery. Guardian
  • Opening of Dean & Deluca in Fashion Island in Newport Beach delayed until 2010. Stick A Fork In It
  • LA Mill in Silver Lake sits on top of microquake epicenter. LAist
  • Brewers and politicians join forces to call for National Beer Day in the U.K. The Herald
  • Obesity kills more Americans than terrorism. Consumerist
  • Do healthful eating options on a menu actually make people eat less healthfully? New York Times
  • Legislators consider banning trans-fats in … Texas?! Business Week
  • West Virginia kills a bill requiring restaurants to post nutritional info. Forbes
  • The bakers from "Ace of Cakes" build a Hubble-themed dessert to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Goddard Space Flight Center. Fox News

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Jungle curry with pork at Jitlada Thai restaurant in Hollywood. (Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times).


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.