Food, Living, and EntertainmentNews Release
Contact: Alisa Ardito
New Haven, CT (May 9, 2012) When avid food fans gather, drama fills the air like delectable aromas. That was the essence of the scene, as the fifth annual Iron Chef Elm City competition got under way on a recent Sunday afternoon at Delia, the impressive Viking appliance showroom in Wallingford.
The competition, modeled on the Food Network's legendary “Iron Chef” TV show, featured New Haven chefs David Brooks, owner of Judie’s European Bakery; Jeremy Martindale, executive chef at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale; and Ben Gaffney of Atticus Bookstore Café as participating combatants.
All three chefs were given their choices of a wide array of foods, herbs, spices, kitchen tools and professional equipment to assist them in preparing their creations. Also in the mix was an Iron Chef tradition, the required "Secret Ingredient" to challenge or confound the contestants. This year that ingredient was Deep River brand potato chips. These were to be used to highlight each of their required creations – an appetizer, entree and dessert. What followed was all-out kitchen warfare under bright lights and close-in camera action.
Celebrity judges, along with a large audience of spectators, some in close proximity to the three knife-wielding gastronomic competitors, were impressed with each chef's skills and creativity. However, with the heat turned up and time running out, it was Chef Ben Gaffney from Atticus – the famed bookstore on Chapel Street that became a Downtown New Haven culinary landmark – who was chosen by the judges for the Iron Chef honor.
"I was very excited to play a role in this gourmet cooking event," Chef Ben explained. "Being a bookstore café, Atticus could easily have been overlooked. We just don't show up on someone's radar until they've experienced our food."
"The secret ingredient threw us off a bit because we were expecting something more complicated like PEZ candies or Raw clams. We worked with the chips and everything worked out fine" Ben recalled. "First we served up the 'Three Cheese Salad' in a toasted parmesan tulip with potato chip granola." The entree followed – "A ginger-sausage stuffed salmon, crusted with potato chips and a Creole mueneire sauce. Our intention was to finish with a flourish!" Ben met his objective with a maple chocolate mousse. A chocolate potato chip honeycomb provided an added touch of rustic charm.
Although he relaxed the day before the competition by trout fishing with his two daughters, the week before included many preparation sessions and strategic planning with Atticus co-workers. On D-day evening, the Iron Chef contest progressed through its phases at Delia. Excitement overtook apprehension in the Atticus camp. "We were fairly confident we would do well as the competition went forward. Time seemed to be on our side," Ben remembers. "When they actually said we won, it was a real pleasure."
Ben the Chef, is also Ben the General Manager at the Atticus Bookstore Cafe. Ben learned his chef's skills from his dad who was also a chef in Connecticut. Prior to Ben's association with Atticus, Ben had worked for Emeril Lagasse at Emeril’s famous NOLA in New Orleans. He also worked at other Lagasse restaurants in Orlando and Miami.
Atticus Cafe's owner, Charles Negaro, was explicit in his praise for his cafe's chef. "Ben is a rare individual with a modern grasp of the whole spectrum of food service as a way to take taste and nutrition to a creative new level of rewarding experience." Mr. Negaro is also the founder and owner of Chabaso Bakery which is headquartered in New Haven and is the northeast's leader in hand-crafted artisan breads.
Judges for the Iron Chef competition were New York Times best-selling author and food columnist Pam Anderson, senior web producer for Fine Cooking magazine Sarah Breckenridge, and cookbook author and Gourmet magazine's Roadfood columnist Jane Stern. Proceeds from the Iron Chef Elm City event benefit a scholarship fund for Hospitality Management students at Gateway Community College in New Haven. Student volunteers from that Gateway program assisted the chefs during the competition.
The Iron Chef Elm City competition was originated and is produced by Stephen Fries, Gateway Community College Hospitality Management Professor, who is also a food columnist for the New Haven Register.
For additional information on the Iron Chef Elm City event or Atticus Chef Ben Gaffney, contact atticusbookstorecafe.com
Chef Ben Gaffney of Atticus Bookstore Café, located in Downtown New Haven at 1082 Chapel Street, took first place recently at the 5th Annual Iron Chef Elm City competition. Before Atticus, Ben worked for Emeril Lagasse at high-energy and fast-pace restaurants in New Orleans, Orlando and Miami, where he says he learned to work hard and still have fun in the cooking business.
Chabaso Bakery was established in New Haven, Connecticut in 1995. The fledgling business was sustained by the local community who quickly recognized outstanding taste and bona fide quality. Using authentic old-world ovens, only the best natural ingredients and no trans-fats, founder Charles Negaro, and some very talented bakers, set out to match the best ciabattas, loaves, batards, rolls, Stix™, baguettes and boules in the world. Today Chabaso breads are available fresh every day in small food stores and large supermarket chains along the US east coast.
For more information call (203) 562-9007, or visit online at www.chabaso.com