Hiram College

Move over Emeril and Paula; make room Mario and Giada. The Hiram chefs are coming to town to defend their crown.

On Wednesday, March 14, five teams of culinary novices from Hiram will compete in “Platinum Chef Hiram.”

A cooking competition modeled on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef” series, and sponsored by AVI Fresh, which provides Hiram’s food service, the winning team in the Hiram competition will represent the College in the Platinum Chef Ohio competition against five other colleges April 19, at the University of Mount Union. Hiram hosted last year’s Platinum Chef Ohio contest, and came up the winner as well. The other schools participating in the April event will be Kenyon College, Malone University, Tiffin University and the University of Mount Union.

Each team will battle it out in the kitchen to represent Hiram at the April competition, a chance to win prizes and impress a panel of celebrity judges. Each five-student team will have an AVI Fresh chef-adviser and will be required to create three dishes. All dishes must showcase a “mystery” ingredient that will not be known by the contestants until the contest begins. Teams will be judged on their ability to demonstrate teamwork, presentation, flavor, creativity and sanitation skills.

But Hiram’s event to select a team will will be more than just slicing and dicing to please the judges’ palates.

“Based on the interest and response to the event last year that we hosted and won, we decided to make selection of the Hiram team a real fun time for the whole community,” said Joe Hinton, Director of Hiram’s AVI Fresh dining services. “We decided to recruit interested students by asking for volunteers on the Dining Hall’s video screens, and the response was overwhelming. We had enough interested students to form five teams to compete. So to build around that interest, we will be having the competition in the Dining Hall during dinner hours, so all the students will be there, and we’ll have a live band, and a food fair to go along with it.”

The food fair will feature samples from local and international food suppliers, including Shearer’s Snack Co., Hershey’s Ice Cream, Coca-Cola, Warren, Ohio’s Uncle Jim’s Foods Inc., Ravenna-based Sirna and Sons Produce Co., and Hiram’s own McKenzie’s Creamery.

To add even more flavor to the mix, Rocco Whalen, chef/owner of the trendy Fahrenheit Restaurant in Tremont, and a featured cast member of the Food network’s “Fat Chef” will serve as a celebrity judge for the Hiram event.

Whalen has amassed a large following for his efforts to create healthy and less fattening restaurant cuisine, and through his other Cleveland area eateries, Rocco’s Nachos and Tacos at Quicken Loans Arena, and ShortRib1, his upscale food truck. Reprising her role last year as a celebrity judge, will be sushi chef, author, and chef-instructor, Hiriko Shimbo. Shimbo has been featered on the Food Network, Roker on the Road, PBS and numerous other culinary programs across the country. She will also kick off the Platinum Chef Hiram activities with a cooking demonstration and will be the one that tells the teams what their mystery ingredient is, just before they begin work on their culinary creations.

“It’s really great that there is so much interest in this here at Hiram,” Hinton said. “These kids aren’t in any culinary program, and they don’t have a lot of training,  but they really come up with some great food, and we want to make this a big event for everyone.”