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Cooking up a win
Turlock High takes Iron Chef title from Pitman
Iron Chef pic 2
Pitman High School culinary arts student Lisa Nguyen preps food for judging during the 2 nd Annual Iron Chef Turlock competition between Pitman and Turlock High Schools. Turlock won this year’s event. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

For Turlock High School, last year’s Iron Chef loss to cross-town rival Pitman High was a bitter pill to swallow. This year, however, the Bulldogs took the lion’s share of points and emerged the winner of the second annual Iron Chef Turlock, held Saturday evening at the Assyrian-American Civic Club.

The theme of Iron Chef Turlock, presented by the Rotary Club of Turlock, was “Taste of Turlock,” a celebration of local and California foods. Culinary students from both schools used California commodities ranging from Hilmar cheeses to Ghirardelli chocolate to make their delicious creations.

Turlock High gained bragging rights thanks to a filet mignon with mushroom lime sauce and sweet potatoes, also served with breaded asparagus and roasted tomatoes. For an appetizer the Bulldogs served rosemary skewered shrimp on a balsamic bed of mixed baby vegetables. Finally, for desert Turlock served a lemon mousse with blueberries and a graham cracker crust.

Pitman had an equally as impressive menu starting with an appetizer of individual pots of Point Reyes blue cheese fondue and baguettes along with dried apricots. For the entrée the students served salmon steaks from Humboldt County with sage honey. On the side was Blue Diamond wild rice and asparagus from Stockton. To wrap their meal up Pitman served Ghirardelli chocolate with shortbread cookies. 

“This is a great way to showcase the students’ artistic and culinary abilities,” said Turlock High culinary instructor Robert Sheets.

Both teams had one-hour to prepare their meals and serve them to a panel of judges.

Meals were judged under criteria including presentation, taste, texture and the use of local commodities. This year’s judges included Turlock Mayor John Lazar, Superintendent of Schools Sonny Da Marto, Bistro 234 Executive Chef LeRoy Walker, On Broadway with Two Guys Chef Eddie Samo and Toscana’s Owner Stan Dimond.

“It was so close, both teams did such a great job, the presentation was great and food tasted so good. We had three professional chefs for the judges and they know the slight differences to determine who wins, but I just loved the food,” said Da Marto.

On top of good food, hundreds of attendees had the chance to win raffle prizes and participate in an auction with items such as San Francisco Giants tickets and a 3-day, 2-night stay at a private Napa estate.

The event, which serves as a showcase for culinary students, is also the Rotary Club of Turlock’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Money raised from the event will go to Rotary’s world-wide mission to eradicate polio.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.