The girls divided into two teams (the 8 & 11-year-old challenged the 13 & 15-year-old) and poured over children's cookbooks to create three dishes from scratch. The "Iron Chef" ingredients they had to incorporate were chicken, chocolate and sour cream. My Mom provided paper chef hats (which the girls wore the entire time they were cooking!) and I was to remain in the kitchen with each team as a consultant.
The morning of the competition, my Dad took them to the tiny grocery store in town to shop for the meal. While they were off grocery shopping, my Mom and I drove to the next town to pick up a few things and ended up stopping at a local carry-out lunch spot for a ginger lemonade. Guess who was standing next to me waiting to order lunch.
(Wait for it) Mario Batali!
I knew that this famous chef had a vacation home in northern Michigan, but I never thought I would actually run into him. I couldn't think of anything to say, so I simply smiled. When we got home, the girls had started cooking and I burst into the kitchen with my exciting news.
Now what did they say to me?
"You didn't ask him to judge our Iron Chef?!?!?"
Ooops. The one day I actually had something relevant to say to Mario Batali and I had blanked. The girls were sure that he would have come if I had only asked. I must say, the whole thing made the cooking competition even more "real." My mom set the table with beautiful Caspari paper goods and we all ate 6 courses that night (2 appetizers, 2 main dishes and 2 desserts). The food was judged on everything from taste to appearance and it was wonderful. The younger team won (see their Minted Pea soup above) and everyone was happy.
If only Mario had been there...