San Francisco has its fair share of foodies.  The city, it seems, has an endless supply of mom-and-pop restaurants appearing daily, and our SF office is largely populated by people who enjoy dining and cooking often.  Blue Apron boxes are a natural occurrence at our front desk area, hinting at the abundance of chefs (or chef-wannabes) working at my company.

In addition to being aspiring culinary artists, many in my office are rather competitive.  Thus, I cooked up (ha) a Top Chef competition to take place during a Friday lunch hour.  We have no ovens or stoves – just microwaves and toaster ovens – so I knew it would get pretty interesting.

I invited three foodies to judge our competition, and some of our more competitive and culinary-inclined people to be our chefs.  It ended up being a blast for everyone to watch, and I was amazed at the dishes that were created!

Set-Up

photo-21It took me about a week to fully plan out the event, from materials to execution.  I made a list of possible ingredients we had in our office and ones I’d need to get at the local grocery store.  Once I had everything planned out, I got out three identical plastic bins and filled them each with identical ingredients, such as microwaveable rice, shrimp and chicken nuts, crackers and other snacks we had in the office, and an assortment of spices/condiments everyone could share.  I decided the “secret ingredient” would be avocado – it seems simple, but would be a challenge to make it stand out in a dish.

photo-32I also set up three workstations with identical tools: measuring cups/spoons, a bowl and plate to serve, cutting board, mixing bowl, knife, and a pad of paper and pen to take notes.

photo-11I designed and printed my own scoring cards.  The criteria were: Appearance, Aroma, Taste, and Creative Use of Secret Ingredient.

The Competition

photo-4I began by explaining the rules to our judges, chefs and the audience.  (Don’t ask why one is wearing a popcorn bucket on his head – he did this voluntarily.  I suppose he’s the ‘wildcard judge.’)

photo-51Once I went over all the rules, announced the secret ingredient and brought out the buckets, the chefs had 5 minutes to look over their ingredient boxes and write notes to plan their dishes.

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We had a live stream of the event for other offices to view and enjoy.
We had a live stream of the event for other offices to view and enjoy.

The chefs had 20 minutes to whip together their culinary creations while the rest of us watched.  It was truly like watching live TV, right in our own kitchen!  The chefs were scrambling to finish their dishes within the time frame, microwaving and toasting and stirring and seasoning.  I allowed about 5 minutes for the judging process.  Our judges really hammed it up and gave hilarious commentary.  I was also very surprised by how great the dishes came out! Our winner received a Top Chef cookbook to take home.  It was a great way to end the week with a fun competition everyone was able to enjoy.