The Sears Chef Challenge – Week 1, Cerritos, CA
What an exciting weekend! I was selected to participate in the Sears Chef Challenge representing the Los Angeles area. Saturday May 8th was the kickoff event.The Sears Chef Challenge is taking place in four major cities across the U.S. – Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York and Chicago. There are twelve chefs, three per city, competing to win money for our favorite food related charities.
Competing for Charitable Organizations
For my food-related charity I chose The Saddleback Church Food Pantry. This food pantry is currently supporting more than four hundred families every month. Their mission is to provide food and spiritual encouragement to the needy in our community. People from all walks of life, all backgrounds and all faiths are welcome. Whether working in the warehouse unloading and sorting food donations, stocking shelves, assembling boxes or serving guest families, I volunteer with them each week and it’s a blessing to do so.
The winner of the first phase wins a $5000 donation for their food-related charity and an appliance of choice. If I win…no WHEN I win, thinking positively…that $5000 will help feed a lot of hungry families. Included with the first level win is a beautiful new Kenmore appliance of choice. I will choose a new Sears Kenmore refrigerator to donate to my second charity, The Sheepfold.
The Sheepfold has been helping homeless and abused women and their children for more than thirty years. Many have found shelter, safe refuge and a new beginning in life as a result of the Sheepfold ministry. This organization has helped thousands turn their lives around. I would love to give one of their special safe homes a new refrigerator! Check out their website.
Back to the Challenge
My first chef challenge was held at the Sears Cerritos store. Sears is providing a terrific setup for all of the chefs to cook on for the demonstrations. I was cooking on a brand new Jenn-Air Induction cooktop and it was really nice. We also had a Kenmore portable induction cook top to use. If you are not familiar with induction cooking, it has been used around the world for some time.
Now that the technology is improving and costs are dropping you should start to hear more about it in the U.S.. It’s more energy efficient than regular electric, safe, fast and only the burner and pan get hot, not the entire cooktop because it works magnetically. Very cool, no pun intended.
We arrived two hours ahead for the setup and to meet the Sears support team. Everyone was so friendly, helpful and excited about hosting the first event. Next, the videographer and her assistant arrived. I was truly wired for sound between the videographer’s wireless microphone and the store setup!
Sears Chef Challenge Website
Sears is taping every demo with the critical demo being week three. Our week three video will be put on the Sears Chef Challenge website. The area winner will be determined by web voting. Voting begins June 26 and ends July 10. Please vote for me every day voting is open! I’m competing with two very talented chefs for the Los Angeles leg of this phase so winning won’t be easy!
This Week’s Recipe
This week’s recipes was Ahi Tuna Salad with Coconut and Lime. Easy, tasty, healthy and colorful. As we head into warm summer weather, having cool easy recipes in your repertoire is a good thing. And if you are not familiar with some of these ingredients, it will help you to learn something new.
Thanks to Chef Rachelle Boucher, Culinary Marketing Manager for Standards of Excellence, a subsidiary of Sears, for her recipe. I’ve shopped there for several kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects. It’s a place you can get lost in drooling over all of the gorgeous appliances, but a knowledgeable staff helps you choose the best options for your requirements
Ahi Tuna Salad Lettuce Cups
- 3/4 lb . highest quality Ahi tuna sushi grade
- 1 large or 2 small heads of butter lettuce
- 3 medium tomatoes
- 1 pound Roma tomatoes
- 1 large mango
- 3/4 pound seedless cucumber English or Persian
- ½ pound carrots about 4 medium
- 4 green onions
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice 2-3 medium limes
- 1 can light coconut milk shake the can well before opening
- 1 tsp . kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 tsp . freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
- 1) Leave tuna in the refrigerator until needed. Gather all remaining ingredients. Wash and dry all produce, starting with whole leaves of lettuce. Dry lettuce in a salad spinner or with paper towels. Gently roll dry lettuce leaves up in paper towels and place in a plastic bag. Chill in refrigerator until needed.
- 2) Gather a large bowl for tossing salad components. Cut a small slice off the top of a Roma tomato. Cut the tomato into quarters lengthwise. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting surface, cut the seeds out and discard. Then cut the “petals” into small dice. Place in the bowl.
- 3) Cut the bottom 1/4 inch from the mango and peel with a vegetable peeler. Stand mango upright on the flat side and using a chefs knife, cut the usable flesh away from the large center fibrous oval seed that goes through the fruit. You should have two large slabs of fruit. Cut away any remaining fruit and cut mango into 1/2 inch cubes. Place into bowl with tomatoes.
- 4) Cut cucumbers in quarters lengthwise. Cut out the seedy centers, then chop into a small dice.
- 5) Peel carrots and grate on largest holes of a box grater to yield approximately 1 1/2 cups of grated carrot, add to large bowl. Carrots can also be diced into ½” cubes. Add to large bowl.
- 6) Slice thin rounds of green onion (green parts only) and measure out ½ cup. Add ¼ cup to large bowl and save ¼ cup for garnish.
- 7) Remove tuna from refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, cut tuna into ½” cubes. Add to large bowl. Salad can be refrigerated for up to three hours at this point.
- Before serving, whisk lime juice and coconut milk together. Add enough to bowl to dress salad and toss gently with clean hands. Season salad with salt and pepper. Offer extra coconut-lime dressing on the side. The salad can be refrigerated up to one more hour at this point if needed.
- To serve, place lettuce leaves on plates or a platter and mound salad mixture onto leaves. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.