Steel Chef – Focus on Renewal (McKees Rocks, PA)

Attend the Steel Chef competition on March 27, 2023!

This past Wednesday, March 1, I had the opportunity to visit the Steel Chef program at Focus on Renwal (FOR). It’s an awesome program run by Jeni Davison (and her amazing assistant Gwen!) for kids aged 14 through 19 in the Sto-Rox area of Pittsburgh. Every week Chef Jeni brings in a new local chef to talk to the students and teach them kitchen skills as well as enhance their culinary knowledge and teach them proper handling and safety measures. I was so lucky to be able to join them for their first tasting and judging session, in preparation for their LIVE Steel Chef Competition, which will be held on March 27th. Tickets available here!

For the Crostini cooking challenge that I was invited to attend, the students were all given a basket of required ingredients. They were then tasked with combining and preparing the ingredients in whatever way they felt would create the best crostini. I was incredibly impressed with the final products of these young chefs!

For the “Sweet Basket”, students were given Pineapple, Raspberries, Blackberries, Marscapone, Fresh Ginger, and Dark Chocolate. They chose to blend the blackberries and raspberries into the marscapone and add some honey to sweeten the mixture. They topped that spread with fresh Pineapple and finely grated ginger, all drizzled with melted chocolate (and topped with a beautiful fresh berry). It was a gorgeous presentation of a sweet treat; the pineapple and ginger melded harmoniously and the berry mascarpone spread was wonderfully tart and fresh, offsetting the sweetness of the professionally-drizzled chocolate. Arrow and Selena knocked it out of the park!

For the “Challenge Basket”, Elek had to face it alone against Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese, Shallots, Mint, Lemon, and Brussel Sprouts. His ingenious soaking of the shallots in an apple cider vinegar mixture helped cut down their bite significantly. The cream cheese was seasoned with a Tropical Saison blend and then mixed with the shallots. He sliced the brussel sprouts down super thin and tossed them in a balsamic vinegar dress, topping it all with some small chiffonade of mint. His flavors were refined and balanced, especially when faced with such heavy ingredients as smoked salmon and cream cheese. He is well on his way to becoming an accomplished chef.

For the “Italian Basket”, the students were given Ricotta, Arugula, Roasted Red Peppers, Prosciutto, Maple Syrup (!), and Lemon. Kat and Tenasia experimented with baked/raw Ricotta, Prosciutto, and Red Peppers, before settling on baking them all for the best flavors. They combined their ricotta with maple syrup before cooking and even added some additional maple syrup as a drizzle when they were done for a truly exceptional crostini!

I am so excited to see where this class goes in terms of accomplishments and acclaim (both within and out of the kitchen). Under Gwen and Jeni’s tutelage, I am positive they’re being equipped with the skills they’ll need to succeed throughout life. Be sure to buy tickets to see them perform live on stage on March 27th! Tickets can be reserved here!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.