One of my favorite pre-COVID parties was my Iron Chef party. You would be amazed by the level of cooking skills 11, 12 and even 10-year-old kids possess. I credit YouTube and the Food Network. Some of these kids had better knife skills than me, and I chop chicken breast into tiny bite-size pieces for a finicky dog every day.
In all honesty, the party had more of a Chopped than Iron Chef feel, but it’s just so much fun to say Iron Chef and bite into a pepper. Each team would receive a basket of food items. The number of items depended upon the age of the birthday host; 12 years, 12 ingredients, you get the idea. Each team was assigned one of my staff members to serve as an adult assistant, but other than making sure no one made their fingers into sushi or lit their hair on fire, the kids were in charge. I gave each team 15 minutes to design their menu which had to include an appetizer, entree, and dessert. After that, I set the timer for 1 hour and let the kids take off.
The main thing about these parties is that everyone is running around in the kitchen like chickens with their heads cut off. There are shouts of, “who has the butter”, “I need another pear”, “my apron keeps falling off”, “stop, everybody freeze, I think I lost my retainer”... that’s what made it so much fun. So when COVID hit and we had to start going virtual with our parties I was convinced I’d never do another Iron Chef party again.
Then I got the call…”Can we do a chef party without the cooking?” Well of course I’m always up for a challenge, but I knew it was going to take some research. I wanted to come up with games that would challenge the guests which meant I needed some real information. Which is how I ended up on Culinaryschools.org. I was googling culinary terms when I stumbled upon their site, and let me tell you - there is a ton on the site to digest. This isn’t a simple blog about food or a place to find a nice quinoa recipe. This is an actual Culinary Resource Center. I was able to find an entire section devoted to all the different kinds of chefs. Did you know that there is a “Poissonnier”? I assumed this was the potions master at Hogwarts, but no, it has nothing to do with poison and everything to do with fish!
Not only can you use the site to find the best school by City or State, but you can find schools that specialize in everything from Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian and Thai foods, to pastry and vegetarian cooking. There are listings for kids' classes, weekend classes, and even cooking vacations. You can compare the different degrees one can achieve, check out the job market, and even compare the different majors associated with the restaurant business.
There’s also this totally great tip calculator that lets you figure out how much to tip depending upon the service and the amount of the bill. I admit to being terrible when it comes to knowing how much to tip. I usually take the tax, multiply it by two and then round the whole thing up so it ends in a zero. It makes my friends crazy. But the thing about this calculator is that it allows you to divide the bill between the number of guests with or without the tip, so each person can choose their comfort level.
One of the most helpful tools is their conversion chart. With the Great British Baking Show craze taking over the world it’s become important to correctly convert Tablespoons into ml (heaven forbid you add too much baking powder to your pasties). This link allows you to convert both liquids and solids, so you might want to bookmark it if you are doing a lot of international cooking.
Lastly, there’s a whole section that I call the rabbit hole, where they highlight tons of food-related video games. I became completely obsessed with the candy version of Tetris called Choco Blocks, a matching game called Yumi Fusion, and this physics game call Filled Glass. I literally lost an hour of my life trying to fill an imaginary glass with colored candy balls.
Thanks to the website I was able to create a few Zoom-worthy games for my event. It will never take the place of Iron Chef, but hey, in these times of COVID, a virtual cooking world is better than nothing.