Gawking at Celebrity Chefs

Posted by Lauren

Last Friday I worked from the SF office instead of Mountain View. After I got off Caltrain, I stopped at Safeway and picked up a banana and an Odwalla (first time I bought one of these if you can believe it) and then I walked a few blocks to Starbucks for a spinach feta egg white wrap and grande coffee. SF, Safeway, Starbucks… that’s a pattern I could get used to every Friday!


Nevertheless, I was in Mountain View this dreary Friday… taking it easy today (and tonight) since I have the Coyote Hills trail half marathon tomorrow morning!!!!!!! This is my goal: trail half PR. I updated the Races page with my 10k PR, and 1/2 PRs from 2010, 2011, and 2012. What you won’t see is my trail 1/2 PR… because it’s awful! As in 30 minutes slower than a normal 1/2 marathon.

But, let’s go back to last Friday. After work, I walked to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square and joined a ballroom full of female chefs and restauranteurs:


Before NYE, I bought a $30 ticket to watch Chef Elizabeth Falkner host a culinary competition for the 20th Anniversary Women Chefs & Restauranteurs annual convention. Falkner organized the event and some fairly awesome ladies were also in attendance – Iron Chef Cat Cora, Chef Amanda Freitag, and Chef Lee Ann Wong to name a few!


I took an empty seat in the front row and watched the crew put final touches on the setup. Falkner gave the intros – “so much talent here” – and described how the competition would work: there are three celebrity coaches (Cora, Freitag, and Wong) that will coach pairs of chefs through an appetizer, entree, and dessert round. The coaches can only offer advice, they can NOT cook.

Round 1: Appetizer + Secret Ingredient: Seafood! (fresh crab, scallops, sardines, etc)


The teams grabbed secret ingredients and got to work.

  • Team 1: surgeon and 3-time Cupcake Wars winner/executive pastry chef at Google
  • Team 2: chef from Texas and local chef from Scala
  • Team 3: chef from Jefferson’s in Kentucky (?) and a personal chef/caterer


The burners went out for all three teams, but they adapted with ease. Falkner and her co-host switched on and off with interviewing the chefs and celebrity coaches. I was a little mesmerized by Cat Cora (her team was directly in front of me) and the playfulness of Amanda Freitag.


The three judges reviewed all the appetizers and doled out compliments and critiques: great time management, inconsistencies with seasoning, scallop not cooked as well as another team, flavors lovely and harmonious, needs more acid…. Team 2 won with their dungeness crab salad, seared scallop garnished with herb, fennel pollen, and lemon juice.


Round 2: Entree + Secret Ingredient: Lamb


The teams got really creative with the entree round and lamb chops:

  • Team 1: seared lamb chops with thyme, mint, salt, pepper; pickled cauliflower; simple gremoulada and mushrooms (they won this round)
  • Team 2: lamb chops with garam masala, paprika, chili flakes; olives and garlic and smoked pepper sauce; greek yogurt polenta
  • Team 3: seared lamb chops with salsa verde; green cauliflower, basil, cilantro; garnished with sheep cheese


And then it was time for the dessert round… Can I just mention how starstruck I was? These ladies seemed so genuine, fun, and passionate. Falkner please come back to SF!!!


Round 3: Dessert + Secret Ingredient: Camembert


During the dessert round, one of the convention sponsors passed out wine glasses with champagne to everyone in the audience. Don’t mind if I do…


Team 3 won the dessert round with their take on the smelly, brie-like cheese. They chose to caramelize apples with champagne butter and serve with a crisp made of almonds, oatmeal, and bacon.


One of the funniest moments came during the judging of the dessert round. Team 1’s bruleed cheese was described as slutty and then Team 2’s poached apricot camembert dish fell “somewhere between bacon and sluttiness” since Team 3 had bacon in their dish. One judge joked that dessert had become 50 Shades of Camembert.

After the overall winner was announced (Team 1 coached by Lee Ann Wong) I asked Falkner and Freitag if they’d take a photo with me. (!!!!!)


I told both of them that I’m not a chef and not a restauranteur, but I do blog about food and I recently blogged about their quest to win the Next Iron Chef competition. Freitag (below) laughed when I told her Andrew and I drafted chefs like it was fantasy football. Oh man, I wish these two ladies were my friends IRL.


Such a fun event and I’m so happy I stumbled upon the news article promoting this culinary competition!

Who will go with me to Brooklyn to try out Falkner’s restaurant, Krescendo? I’ll buy you a Robicelli’s cupcake.


Comments (2)

  1. Jordan @ food, sweat, and beers

    Just booked a trip to Brooklyn in 2 weeks, wonder if I’ll come across Krescendo. I’ll hold you to that cupcake. And MOSTLY am obsessed that Robicelli’s website features all the Happy Endings GIFs.
    Jordan @ food, sweat, and beers recently posted..God Save the Delta PsiMy Profile

    1. Sugar Coated Sisters (Post author)



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