Claire Criscuolo

Food Fight

Even as New Haven Restaurant Week wraps up (just three days remain), we find ourselves with two more not-to-be-missed culinary events sure to appeal to New Haven’s dashing diners: the Iron Chef/Elm City Battle on April 22nd and the combination Kitchen Tour and Tapas Reception on April 29th.

Iron Chef/Elm City, now celebrating its fifth year, takes place at Delia, located in an industrial park in Wallingford, where a squat brick building holds the kitchen of dreams: the Viking Center. Inside is a spacious room with a vast and ever-changing arrangement of high-end kitchen equipment. It’s a one-of-a-kind culinary laboratory/theatre for hosting cooking classes and demonstrations.

It’s in this space where three New Haven chefs will cook mano a mano, using a “pantry” full of fresh vegetables, proteins and a host of basic ingredients—plus, in an Iron Chef tradition that never gets old, a secret ingredient which is revealed minutes before the competition begins. In past years, the heavily guarded secret ingredients have ranged from local cheeses to Lyman Orchards apples to Willoughby’s coffee.

Organizer and founder Stephen Fries (professor and coordinator of Hospitality Management Programs at

Gateway Community College) isn’t about to spoil this year’s surprise. All he’ll reveal are the players: competitors David Brooks of Judie’s European Bakery; Ben Gaffney of Atticus Bookstore Café; and Jeremy Martindale of John Davenport’s in the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale.

They’ll have exactly one hour to create an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. Amidst the sizzles, flame bursts, and the clamor of busy chefs, eighty-five ticket-holders will look on with rapt attention. On-the-spot commentary will be provided by roving observers, including Chef Mike Devlin, a Gateway instructor, and tv and radio personality Jim Masters. The resulting dishes will be presented to a fearsome panel of judges: Jane Stern, of “Roadfood” fame; Sarah Breckenridge, web producer for Fine Cooking Magazine; and Pam Anderson (“the cookbook author, not the actress,” jokes Steve). The judging will be moderated by Jocelyn Ruggiero, a.k.a. “The Foodie Fatale”.

At day’s end, one winner will take home a trophy that’s been won in past years by such culinary luminaries as Chef Arturo “Franco” Camacho, currently of Tacuba and Swill in Branford, and Chef Prasad Chirnomula of Thali, Thali Too and Oaxaca. The winner will also face these former champions at next year’s battle royale for New Haven’s gastronomic bragging

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rights in 2013.

The following week has even more foodie fun in store with a combination event. First, from 12:30 to 5 p.m. on April 29th, grab a seat on a luxury coach and come see how the other half cooks. It’s the coveted Kitchen Tour, in which curiosity-seekers get to peep at the gourmet kitchens of three grand private homes plus one professionally designed outdoor kitchen. At each stop there will be treats, samples and hand-outs, mostly provided by outside talent including Guliana’s Gelato. Each bus will have a local celebrity to ramp up the entertainment value: television personality Theresa LaBarbara will be on one bus; cookbook author Jackie Miconi will join a second.

The grand finale happens later that evening when beloved chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Claire Criscuolo hosts a Tapas Reception at the aforementioned Delia in Wallingford. Starting at 5:30 p.m., she’ll be joined by six chefs including Jean Pierre Vuillermet of Union League Café; Patrick Hogan of Kelly’s Restaurant & Bar; Manuel Romero of Ibiza; Jason Carmon of Soul de Cuba; and the aforementioned IC/EC winners Franco Camacho and Prasad Chirnomula. Each will prepare two tapas paired with wines courtesy of The Wine Thief. On hand for the party and the silent auction will be Jane Stern and Emmy-winning journalist Jocelyn Maminta. Every guest will go home with a belly full of inspiration and Claire’s book, “Welcome to Claire’s: 35 Years of Recipes and Reflections from the Landmark Vegetarian Restaurant.”

Written by Todd Lyon. Photographed by Julie Bidwell.

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