Barbeque grills and a deep-rooted crosstown rivalry are expected to heat up later this month during the Turlock Education Foundation’s fourth annual Iron Chef Competition, which pits the culinary arts programs from Pitman High School and Turlock High School against each other in the likeness of the competitive cooking show.
“This is not only a fundraiser to raise money for our Classroom Grant Program, but it’s also an opportunity to showcase the skills of our students in our culinary arts program,” said TEF President Barney Gordon. “The students enjoy it, the audience enjoys it, and it’s a good way to highlight our culinary arts program. It’s loads of fun.”
Teams consist of four students from the high schools’ culinary arts programs and the site principal. Gordon said that while the culinary arts instructor is also in attendance, they serve as more of a supporting role.
With this year’s Iron Chef Competition centering around a barbeque theme, students have one hour to prepare an appetizer, main course and dessert. Gordon said that while TEF doesn’t surprise students with a secret ingredient like the show, they do have some restrictions, including the requirement that they have to cook their main course on a grill.
As around 350 guests are expected for the program, each team will prepare enough food for the judges and those who attend the competition will be served a meal by Neto’s Catering. Center pieces will be created by the ornamental horticulture programs from each school.
Judges for this year’s competition include Stanislaus State Campus Recreation Director Dan Houlden, who is a certified BBQ judge, TUSD Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan, Woods Furniture Gallery owner Randy Woods and Mayor Gary Soiseth.
TEF gives both culinary programs $250 for participating in the event, and each student of the winning team will receive a $250 scholarship. Each student of the runner up team will receive a $150 scholarship.
“We also have a perpetual trophy that gets sent around,” said Gordon. “The winning team gets to keep the trophy for the year.”
Individual tickets to the competition are available for $40 each and can be purchased at PHS, THS or Woods Furniture Gallery. Tickets may also be purchased online and will be available for pickup in will-call. Reserved tables for eight are included with all sponsorship levels or can be purchased separately for $320.
Those interested in sponsoring the Iron Chef Competition have the option of purchasing a $5,000 Event sponsorship, a $2,500 Platinum sponsorship, a $1,000 Gold sponsorship or the $500 Silver sponsorship. Information regarding each sponsorship and their acknowledgments is provided on the TEF website.
All proceeds from the competition will go toward enhancing and enriching the educational experience of TUSD students through the TEF Classroom Grant Program.
“Every year we offer Classroom Grants to teachers within the school district and we usually donate about $15,000 towards those grants,” said Gordon. “We’ve helped purchase 3D printers, equipment for special needs classrooms, supported many of the outdoor gardens, purchased a drone for Walnut Elementary, and this is the primary fundraiser for the program.”