Monday, February 29, 2016

4th Annual SF Vegan Iron Chef

I had a stroke of good fortune last week when I won a ticket to the 4th Annual SF Vegan Iron Chef in a drawing sponsored by the UC Davis Integrative Medicine program. This contest pitted the winning chefs from the past three SF Vegan Iron Chef competitions against each other for an all-star matchup.

Prior to the actual competition, there was a reception featuring a variety of wonderful vegan hors d'oeuvres supplied by Miyoko's Kitchen, Field Roast, Hodo Soy, and other purveyors of vegan food. It was pretty exciting to be able to eat anything on the table without having to ask what was in it!

Emcee Lani Muelrath explained the rules of the competition. Each chef was required to make an appetizer, side dish, and entrée within a specified period of time, and the three celebrity judges (and those of us with premium tickets) would sample the items after each course was prepared. A winner would be chosen based on all three dishes.

The participating chefs were Lisa Books-Williams, personal chef, caterer, instructor, and winner of the first Vegan Iron Chef; Jay Astafa, the vegan chef at 3 Brothers Pizza Café in New York and winner of the second Vegan Iron Chef; and Kevin Schuder, who has been a Bay Area chef for eight years, including a stint at famed vegan restaurant Millenium. Schuder was the winner of the third Vegan Iron Chef.

To make things interesting, the chefs were required to incorporate jackfruit into their appetizers and entrées, and mustard greens into their side dish. I wasn't able to write down very good descriptions of each dish, so I'm hoping the pictures I took will give you an idea about what the chefs created.

For the appetizer course, Chef Kevin prepared a fully-loaded small purple baked potato, with broccolini, seitan bacon, jackfruit, chives, and cashew cream. Chef Jay prepared tostadas with jackfruit, red cabbage, microgreens, and cashew cream. Chef Lisa made small sprouted buckwheat pizzas with tomato sauce, cashew cream, olives, onions, and jackfruit.

Mustard greens figured prominently in the side dishes prepared by Chef Kevin and Chef Jay, and only incidentally in the side dish prepared by Chef Lisa. Chef Kevin's creation also included kohlrabi, yuba, mustard flowers, and kumquat. I forgot to take a picture of Chef Jay's mustard green and slivered almond dish -- sorry! Chef Lisa used mustard greens and mustard seeds to garnish a potato mash.

The chefs were all at their creative best with their entrées. Chef Kevin wrapped asparagus and a mixture of bulgur and chopped jackfruit in a collard green and served it on a bed of mashed potatoes. Chef Jay topped a plate of mushroom risotto with a crispy jackfruit patty and microgreens. Chef Lisa prepared mushroom and jackfruit duxelles served in a puff pastry.

The celebrity judges had their work cut out for them when it came time to pick a winner. The judges were Colleen Holland, co-founder of VegNews magazine; Dustin Harder, host and creator of The Vegan Roadie and OMG! That's Vegan?!; and microblogger George Lin. After a spirited discussion, they finally announced the winner: Chef Jay Astafa!

At the end of the competition, gift bags were handed out to all the spectators containing all sorts of vegan goodies. It was quite a wonderful event! If you're interested in attending next year's Vegan Iron Chef, you may want to follow SF Vegan Events on Facebook so you can watch for the event announcement.

I know this has been a long post, but I would be remiss if I didn't include information about the organization that made my attendance at the Vegan Iron Chef possible -- UC Davis Integrative Medicine. This program seeks to prevent chronic illness by educating people about lifestyle changes that would improve their health. Their main focus is on nutrition and promoting a plant-based diet. More information about UC Davis Integrative Medicine is available on their website at or on their Facebook page at


Chef and Baker Catering said...

Do you know how to participate in this competition as we are interested in this specific contest?

Pam said...

No, I don't, but there's a "Contact" link on the Vegan Iron Chef website, so that might be a good place to start. Good luck!