A pair of north Winnipeg high schools were dubbed true iron chefs in a competition last week.
Sisler High School and Maples Collegiate both competed in this year’s Localvore Iron Chef Cook-off, organized by Food Matters Manitoba. The cooking contest, which invites teams of four gourmets from schools around the province, challenges competitors to create their best dish using as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible.
After the competition, held Feb. 1 at Winnipeg Technical College’s Henlow campus, the Maples Knives of Hearts were named the Culinary Arts category winners, while the Sisler Squashers won the Home Economics category.
This marks the first time Maples has won their tier, and a second-time win for Sisler.
"It feels pretty good," Knives of Hearts teacher-supervisor Brian Humniski said of the first-time win.
The Knives of Hearts won with an apple and chicken stirfry on a barley pilaf with stuffed mushrooms. Humniski said a plethora of local ingredients was key to victory: The team used ingredients from local purveyors such as Peak of the Market, Loveday Mushroom Farms, Nature’s Farm, Dunn-Rite Chicken and even Humniski’s garden.
"All they had that wasn’t local was the salt and pepper," Humniski said.
The Sisler Squashers went so far as to make their own ingredients when they couldn’t be found locally. Teacher-supervisor Lauren Sawchuk said the team made its own mozzarella and goat cheese in the process of perfecting its Squash-getti casserole, which featured spaghetti squash and other veggies and herbs grown in the school’s garden, as well as Manitoba-grown bacon.
"We practiced lots... They were very calm and confident," Sawchuk said.
Both teams emerged from cooking programs at their respective schools, specifically an after-school cooking program Sawchuk runs for Sisler students, and Maples Collegiate’s co-operative culinary services program. Sawchuk and Humniski both feel the competition is a great way to get students to step up their game in the kitchen.
"It makes them feel capable... it inspires them to put in the effort," Sawchuk said, adding the contest’s emphasis on local ingredients is in keeping with her own philosophies about food.
"They have to learn how to apply themselves in a short period of time, and be under the scrutiny of the judges for their technique, their sanitation, other aspects of it," Humniski said.
As first-place winners, both teams will be featured at the 2013 Growing Local Conference, which runs Mar. 1-2 at the Marlborough Hotel at 331 Smith St.