By Raymond Bill
If you are a fan of The Food Network and shows like, “Chopped” and, “Iron Chef,” then you are certainly going to love what La Quinta High School’s Culinary Department is cooking up this season. Many people do not realize that just over one year ago, LQHS underwent a major renovation, receiving a state of the art kitchen and appliances, complete with a show kitchen and stadium seating. Assistant Principal, Sean Webb, has transformed his vision into a reality, creating a perfect venue for educating our valley’s teenagers as well as providing a stage for local chefs to compete for bragging rights. And the good news is that everyone benefits, including local charities.
Honoring the school’s mascot, the event is called, “The Blackhawk Showdown” and it is capturing the attention of foodies from all over our valley. Their most recent event featured Chef Brian Recor from Morgan’s in the Desert and Chef Reese Murakami from Kobe Japanese Steakhouse and his supper club, Dinner by the Akamai Ohana. Each Chef was to prepare three dishes of which at least two would need to utilize the mystery ingredients, Hangar Steak and Prickly Pear, generously donated by Crown Meat Company and L & G Fresh Produce. The chefs are only made aware of their mystery ingredients 24 hours prior to the event.
As an audience member, I was able to enjoy the six plates prepared by the two chefs and participate in the voting process. While there are four “blind” judges that contribute 80% of the vote, the audience makes up the difference with their scorecards. Chef Brian Recor prepared a Hangar Steak Carpaccio with fresh arugula and figs, finished with a prickly pear emulsion for his first course while Chef Reese Murakami masterfully created a Chimichurri marinated Hangar Steak with mixed greens, feta cheese and prickly pear vinaigrette. Both dishes were well presented and bursting with flavor.
The following course would include Chef Brian’s Spice Crusted Hangar Steak accompanied by a Bosc Pear “ravioli” of celery root with a prickly pear gastrique. The flavors were sweet and spicy and the presentation was phenomenal. Chef Reese would compete with a hearty chili of hangar steak with bacon and Greek sausage over white rice. While we as the audience felt Chef Reese had won the first round, it was clear Chef Brian was the favorite for round two!
For the final round, Chef Brian prepared a sweet dessert of Sponge Cake with a prickly pear sorbet and a passion fruit crème anglaise. It was remarkable to put it simply. Chef Reese opted to forgo dessert for a Korean style Bibimbap, mixed rice with hangar steak, pickled vegetables, egg and shredded lettuce. It was a very unique dish that had many layers of flavor, showing off much talent. I was not sure who would win; it seemed to be anyone’s game. After some deliberation, Chef Brian Recor was victorious though it was clear everyone was a winner, especially the many culinary students that participated on stage and in the back of the house.
This is truly a community event, with much support from the following: Chef Scott Robertson, New Leaf Catering. Tim Johnson, A Culinary Beat. Alyssa Fornasiero, Bristol Farms Bakery. Mike Oster, AVIR in Palm Desert. Greg Goodman, My Little Flower Shop. Mellany Miller Photography. E. & E. Pel’s Italian Ice.
The Bianca Rae Foundation as well as EQUU8 have both benefited from the event with donations to each charity and the events have grossed $8600 for the La Quinta High School Culinary Arts Program. For tickets and more information, contact Sean Webb at (760) 772-5020 or visit their facebook page, “Blackhawk Culinary Showdown”. Space is limited and tickets will sell fast, so be sure to stay tuned for upcoming events.