Spouses’ club serves up success with second ‘Iron Chef’

Gary Garner concentrates as he works on his dish that took first place in the Maxwell-Gunter Officers’ Spouses’ Club Iron Chef competition. (Air Force photo by Jamie Pitcher)

Gary Garner concentrates as he works on his dish that took first place in the Maxwell-Gunter Officers’ Spouses’ Club Iron Chef competition. (Air Force photo by Jamie Pitcher)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The secret ingredient was chayote.

Everything else was fair game for two professional chefs competing in an "Iron Chef" contest at the Officers' Club on Jan. 15.

The second annual competition and luncheon was hosted by the Maxwell-Gunter Officers' Spouses' Club.

Tonya Terry from WSFA-TV was the master of ceremonies for the event which was designed as a lighthearted culinary competition between two top chefs in the River Region.

This year, it was the owner of Garrett's Restaurant, Gary Garner, and the chef owner of Nobles and The Olive Room, Ted Nobles, who engaged in pan-to-pan combat in the Officers' Club ballroom.

The MGOSC invited spouses from Air War College to host the event for club members.

"We are blessed to have many talented individuals in our group who were willing to organize the Iron Chef Competition," said Tamara Forsyth, the charitable committee adviser. "Audrey Klein was a key component to this event. We couldn't have done this project without her leadership and expertise."

"This is a popular event among the spouses, and we're grateful for the support shown by all involved, especially our donors and sponsors," said Audrey Klein, who chaired the planning committee for this event.

In the Iron Chef competition, two chefs go head-to-head in an hour-long cooking battle creating an appetizer, entree, and dessert that is not only pleasing to the discerning palates of the panel of judges, but also makes creative use of the "secret ingredient" - in this case the chayote squash, which is often referred to as a "vegetable pear."

Each chef can be awarded up to 20 points by each judge. Points consist of up to 10 for taste, 5 for presentation, and 5 for the originality of their dishes. If they use chayote, they get 2 bonus points. The chef with the higher score is declared the winner.

One of this year's judges was Tech. Sgt. Lamar Ramsey, enlisted aide and personal chef to Lt. Gen. Allen G. Peck, Air University commander.

Referring to the challenges the competing chefs face, Sergeant Ramsey said, "I know what they're going through. I feel their pain! The key is thinking quickly on your feet."

Getting psyched up helps some chefs, but others play it cool.

"Our expectations are simple coming into competition," Chef Nobles said. "We came here to have fun, compete and ultimately win. This is a healthy, creative competition among friends, and that's why it's special to be here. Maybe they'll give us a secret ingredient like hibiscus flowers, figs or pomegranates - that would be fun!"

As the timer wound down to the final few minutes, the chefs raced to place final entrees, sauces and garnishes on their plates. Shouts of encouragement from on-lookers spurred the cooks on as they adorned each plate and scrambled to take their places for the tasting and scores.

Chef Garner ended up winning this battle. He expressed how much he appreciated the opportunity to participate.

"I was thrilled to win, and was even more glad to have such a formidable opponent in Ted Nobles," he said. "Everything was organized so well, and all of the ladies were great. The great selection of products provided by (a local grocery store) made our challenge to create original and tasteful dishes achievable."

Out of the ingredients provided, Garner and his assistant Kit Tatum were able to create the following winning menu: shrimp-stuffed chayote squash with broccoli garlic beurre blanc; pan-seared chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella, rosemary and garlic; carved rose red potato, sautéed green beans and red bell peppers with a bacon mushroom glaze; and a mixed berry trifle stack with caramel sauce.

The MGOSC is a non-profit organization composed of two branches - charitable and social. The charitable side of the organization provides valuable support to the base, surrounding community, and national charities as well as a merit-based scholarship program for military high school dependents and spouses.

Each year the MGOSC awards up to 10 scholarships in amounts ranging from $500 to $2,000 to military dependents and spouses. In addition to funding a scholarship program for military students, the MGOSC supports many base, local, and national organizations through charitable donations raised though the proceeds from the Maxwell Thrift Shop. During the 2007-2008 board year, the MGOSC made over $48,000 in charitable donations.

The social side offers members opportunities for social interaction and support through monthly programs, special activities and community volunteer programs. Membership is open to all branches of service and often includes spouses from sister services and international services

The club's next scheeduled event is a Mardi Gras silent art auction and wine tasting the evening of Feb. 13.