Saturday, July 24, 2010

Judging the Bug Cook Off

Posted By on Sat, Jul 24, 2010 at 4:03 PM

There was an “Iron Chef”-style cook off at the Children’s Museum this morning. The surprise ingredients? Cherries, sausage, molasses, and....

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Wax worms.

The Bug Cook Off, sponsored by none other than Terminix, challenged three chefs to make the most delectable (or least gag-inducing) bug dishes.

The contestants were Jason Severs, chef and owner of Bari:

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Scott DeLarme, executive chef at Owen Brennan's:

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and Zack Lemann, an entomologist at the Audubon Insectarium:

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Ben Vaughn, our lovely emcee, explained the simple rules: Use the secret ingredients, along with some basic pantry items stocked in the cooking area, to make one entrée and one dessert. The judges then deliberate, judging on taste, creativity, and presentation, and name a winner.

The entrée portion of the contest called on the chefs to prepare wax worms. Here’s what came out.

Scott DeLarme mixed up a batch of succotash, with the sausage, corn, green onion, and a little cherry garnish:

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Zack Lemann took the crispy, fried route:

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And came out with a straightforward, bug-side-up sausage plate:

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And Jason Severs went a more traditional Italian route, blending the sausage with a polenta-like couscous, sweet cherries and paprika glaze:

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All of the dishes were remarkably tasty. The cooked-to-a-crisp approach was my personal favorite (it made the bugs nutty, and light like popcorn) but Jason’s sautéed worms actually worked perfectly with the soft couscous.

On to desserts! The basket of ingredients held Cheerios, Werther’s caramel candies, peaches, and...

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Crickets. Above is about a pound (a pound, people!) of farm-raised crickets, with Scott’s sous-chef diligently chopping chocolate in the background. Nearby we found this straggler:

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Poor guy. Then again, he looks like he might be tasty fried in Cheerio batter...

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Which is exactly what Scott did! Served with a chocolate-caramel sauce, fresh whipped cream, and glazed peaches.

At the next station, Zack was working on his own specialty dessert:

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Crunchy, cinnamon toasted crickets and Cheerios with a rich chocolate ganache and caramelized peaches topped with more crunchy crickets:

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At the final station, Jason layered peaches, sweet Greek yogurt, chocolate-covered Cheerios, and crispy fried crickets, and circled the dish with a chocolate and caramel swirl:

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Here is the dish up close:

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Everyone agreed that the Cheerio batter was a particularly ingenious use of the ingredients, and the crispy cinnamon crickets were delectable.

We judges had a hard time deciding who to give the illustrious bug-cook-off laurels to. In the end, we determined that Scott DeLarme of Owen Brennan’s had the most complete dishes, with the perfect amount of highlighting and disguising the creepy crawler ingredients. Here he is with his trophy:

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There was quite a crowd at the event, with curious onlookers of all ages. I think we all look forward to what they come up with for next year’s challenge.

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