What’s cooking?!   Cocalico Iron Chefs compete Sunday

By on February 25, 2015

The Ninth Annual Iron Chef Cocalico, set for this Sunday, March 1, is setting itself up as a battle between a “tough girl” chef from the “school of hard knocks” and a more pampered, buttoned-up chef, a graduate of the prestigious Johnson & Wales Culinary School.

The duo visited their kitchen stadium last week at Cocalico High School for press photos and interviews.

Kelly Kapinos, the general manager and chef at Reflections is the return consecutive two-time winner of the award. She came alone and was constantly on her phone checking in to her restaurant. Chef Quinn Hacker is a first-time contestant and was accompanied by his entourage of two other men who were at his call if he needed. They may have even fanned him.

Photo by Michele Walter Fry Kelly Kapinos from Reflections, trying for her third consecutive win, and Quinn Hacker, Luthercare,  Lititz,  vying for his first, share smiles over an Iron Chef medal.

Photo by Michele Walter Fry
Kelly Kapinos from Reflections, trying for her third consecutive win, and Quinn Hacker, Luthercare, Lititz, vying for his first, share smiles over an Iron Chef medal.

But the duo will have a third competitor: Chef Michael Harants, from John Gross & Co., who was not in attendance for the media event.

Kapinos, with pink-tipped red, spirally hair and a hard-rock look explained how she got her start in cooking.

“I went to vo-tech my senior year of high school other than that, it was just the school of hard-knocks,” said Kapinos. “I was at Lily’s for 12 years and now I’m at Reflections. It takes dedication. It’s long hours. I learned just by doing it. I started as garde-manger, the cold side of everything on the line.”

Hacker has an equally inspiring story and although he took a different route to being a chef. Hard work is the common denominator to becoming successful.

“In high school I realized I wasn’t an athlete, musically talented, or a very good artist and didn’t like studying,” said Hacker. “Cooking came naturally. I spent time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother learning and seeing what they had done.

“I went off to Johnson and Wales in Providence Rhode Island. The holidays that no one wants to work, you work. Your friends want to go out and partying, you’re going to be working and building your reputation.”

The contest on Sunday afternoon, March 1, at the Cocalico High School cafeteria draws more than 600 people a year — it’s a big deal and the only iron chef competition like it in the county.

It’s fun and for $15 for adults and $8 for students with kids under 5 eating free, they get to watch the fun and sample delicious entries from the “People’s Choice Competition.” This includes food from The Seed, Union Barrel Works, Naturally Grounded, Courtyard Café on Main, Ephrata Community Hospital, Penn Werner, and Dave’s Diner. And there’s another food tasting event from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. where attendees sample foods from more than 20 local vendors.

“If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault,” said Chris Dunn, Cocalico food service director.

It’s a win-win because not only is it fun, entertaining, and attendees get to eat lots of great food, all proceeds go to the Cocalico Education Foundation which provides grants for students, scholarships to Cocalico graduates, and money to Books to Grow On, which provides books for preschool children in the Cocalico School District.

“I was amazed at the history of this event and what they’ve raised for the school system and what they’re able to do for the school,” said William Perham, Luthercare area general manager.

“Our community residents get so excited about this. They get behind it and want to know what the results are. It’s a big, exciting thing for them.”

As in past years, the chefs are given a basket of only a few ingredients. They have 40 minutes to make a non-green vegetable, a side salad, and entrée. This year’s theme is “Citrus Sensation.” There will be three area well-known judges with one judge seat open to any ticket holder with the winning bid in the live auction.

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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