I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to write this post! For years... YEARS... I've been dreaming about a Chopped inspired party and this year, for my birthday, I got it! I had such a great time and below you will find all the juicy details (pun totally intended).
To start the afternoon, we prepared lunch boxes for everyone. The Italian sandwiches were made by Kacey's Kitchen, at my request, and the tiny Sapporo beers (from the San A in Main City Mall) were too cute to pass up! I snagged the little white boxes from a restaurant supply store in Awase and topped off the boxes with pretzel rods and grapes. Yum!
(L) The Pantry (R) Team Masam -- translates to "tastes good"
(L) Team Ginger Flare (R) Team Thunder Punch
Mark and I spent Saturday morning scouring the local markets for the fresh produce for the pantry. Then, Kacey and I dumped our pantry items, to include any major kitchen appliances and aprons, into the mix. Before you knew it we had 3 tables full of stuff! It was wonderful and made for a great selection!
Baby C was our guest judge and she picked all of the teams. Yes, she was peeking but lets all remember that, although she can count to three, she can't read yet. Haha! Mark and I were judges and we had nine chefs. So, we split everyone up into three teams of three.
We had three rounds: appetizer, entree, and dessert. Each round had four secret ingredients. The teams were allowed to use anything in the fridge and pantry, but had to use all four secret ingredients.
First up was the appetizer round! Each team originally had 40 minutes to complete this round, but I gave them a 10 minute bonus when I realized everyone was a bit behind. The mandatory ingredients were spam, quail eggs, black beans, and persimmons. I think Kacey's reaction upon seeing the spam was, "Oh no!!"
Everyone got so serious once we started the clock! It was all business for the next 50 minutes and we were impressed! Mark and I saw mad egg cracking skills from Thunder Punch, creativity from Ginger Flare, and Japanese influence within Masam's team. Super impressive!
Ginger Flare: A persimmon salsa paired with by an over-easy quail egg on a spam and black bean patty.
Masam: Spam wrapped quail eggs with a persimmon dipping sauce and black bean soup
Lowest scoring team was penalized: Only 1 knife allowed for the entire entree round
Next up, entree! Teams had 50 minutes for this round, too. Between each round I was hoping for a long break, but our time restraint (more on that in the after action report) didn't make that possible. It was one round right after the other! This was when I realized how tiring the day was going to be, but everyone just kept chugging along. I, seriously, have the greatest friends ever!
The mystery ingredients for the entree round were fresh tuna, fortune cookies, instant rice, and white wine. Again, the teams all got super creative and, although time wasn't on everyone's side, all dishes were done when time ran out!
I, sadly, didn't get photos of all three entree dishes. Apparently, I was way too excited to eat! They were all tasty and the presentation was pretty amazing, too!
Thunder Punch: Fortune cookie crusted tuna pan fried in white wine with a veggie and rice lettuce wrap.
Ginger Flare: Tuna served 4 ways: sesame crusted, sashimi with wasabi, fortune cookie crusted paned fried, and sesame and fortune cookie crusted deep fried paired with a white wine and mushroom risotto
Masam: Fortune cookie crusted tuna steak with a mushroom and white wine rice.
Lowest scoring team was penalized: rock/paper/scissors with teammates - loser can't talk for 5 minutes during dessert round
Last, but certainly not least, the dessert round!! In the basket, each team found benimo (Japanese purple sweet potato), boxed spice cake mix, an apple, and Bailey's Irish Creme. Each team had 30 minutes to finish their final dish, which was the most challenging out of all of the time limits. In our kitchen, there were only Japanese ovens so baking was nearly out of the question.... unless you had the Japanese ladies on your team. *wink*
I absolutely love what the benimo looks like when it's being cooked. I could have stared at it the entire time it was cooking. Haha! It's so pretty!!
The judging section was pretty cute, but don't be fooled! They're all very serious about their eats!
Thunder Punch: A spice cake pancake with caramelized apples and benimo topped with a peanut butter and Bailey's icing, accompanied by a benimo and blueberry smoothie (not pictured)
Ginger Flare: A spice cake and benimo waffle topped with caramelized apples. Finished with whipped cream and a Bailey's reduction
Masam: Spice cake and apple cupcake with a benimo sauce, accompanied by a Bailey's hot chocolate (not pictured)
Team Ginger Flare walked away with the win by only a few points (all within 5-6 points of each other). Overall, it was such a great time! We started and ended as awesome friends, which says a lot when you ask nine people to cook against each other for 3 hours!
We rented out a community center kitchen near Gate 2 of Kadena that has 4 working stations (two burners, counter top, & sink). It was $60 to rent from 9AM - 5PM and included heating and air conditioning. 1/2 day rentals are available. In their brochure, all fees and descriptions can be found in English. I had no problem renting the space - just go to the counter inside the main entrance and ask.
The kitchen is fully stocked with utensils and numerous appliances (blenders, hand mixers, a small food chopper, etc...). Renters are responsible for clean up, to include providing trash bags and removing all trash at the end. Since we had 3 teams, we used the other station for dishes and used the stove top for two big pots boiling water. I highly recommend bringing new sponges and dish soap, too.
For directions to the kitchen, click here. You'll also find details on the "Favorite Things Exchange" that we did between each round! Lastly, let me know if you're planning a Chopped party! I'd love to hear what you come up with and help with any details!
After Action Report:
- Give yourself plenty of time. The party started at 1, but the cooking portion didn't begin until 2. This left no time to relax between rounds. We could have, easily, started cooking at 11 and had more time to enjoy a drink between rounds.
- Hire dishwashers. We didn't take into account the amount of time that it would take us to clean up between rounds and at the very end of the day. It would have been a lot less stressful had we had someone taking care of that for us.
- No need to go crazy on the pantry items. Although it was really nice to have two kitchens worth of food and spices, a lot of it went untouched. In hindsight, we could have had our kitchen stuff and left Kacey's out. This would force teams to use up the available ingredients and would allow you to take less back home.
- Remind the judges that they will be eating all day. Mark and I ate our delicious lunch boxes before the competition started and were overflowing by the end of the day.
- Add recommended questions to score cards. The score card that I made for the judges was very simple, but we were left trying to think of things to ask the teams about their dishes. Mark did a really good job pretending to be a real Chopped judge, but I was all about just eating the dish and moving on. Looking back, it would have been nice to have prompted questions.