The day is here! It’s time for Puerto Peñasco’s 5th Annual Iron Chef (Chefs de Acero…Chef Maestros…gran Chefs) Competition as part of the Taste of Peñasco. The Chef competition is set to get underway at 11 a.m. at Plaza del Camarón (across from City Hall and at the corner of Blvd. Fremont and Blvd. Juarez) so, we thought we’d take this opportunity and present the chefs competing in this year’s event. Each chef has a sous chef, which in some cases means that both chefs are equally as strong and they decided between them who would be in charge of the makeshift kitchens that will adorn one side of the Plaza.
Ramón Ramos Rodriguez (chef) and Eliezer Lozano Ibarra (sous chef) from La Cocina de Ramón. Ramón won the 2010 Puerto Peñasco Iron Chef competition and then in 2011 went up against Chef Luca (from Mare Blu Ristorante at that time) who then took the title. Ramón and Eliezer are both from Puerto Peñasco originally and express their strong points are definitely traditional Mexican cuisine. Ramón tells us that he is thankful to everyone for these types of events as they are good for the restaurants, good for the community, and just good for todos!
Mickey Medina (chef) and Gabriela Mata (sous chef) from Chef Mickey’s Place. Mickey won the 2009 Puerto Peñasco Iron Chef competition and has actually been cooking up a storm since he was 10 years old. He is an active member of the Culinary Union 226 and worked at numerous high-end spots in Las Vegas, NV before coming to Puerto Peñasco where he has worked to establish himself as a local favorite. As he explains, he didn’t have a sous chef lined up and (due to reasons out of our control) the winning chef team from the University was not going to be able to compete he asked one of the two women from that team, Gabriela Mata, to join him for the Iron Chef experience. Gabriela is completing her 2nd year within the culinary arts degree program of the Technological University of Puerto Peñasco and hopes to begin internships with restaurants following graduation this year.
Julio Cauich Balam (chef) and Geronimo Lopez Dominguez (sous chef) come to the competition from the Bakal Restaurant at Mayan Palace Puerto Peñasco. This is one of those cases where both chefs are strong and had to select who would be “the chef” for the competition. Julio, originally form the Yucatan, has worked in restaurants across Mexico and has been here in Puerto Peñasco for about 6 years. After sampling some of the great dishes from the Yucatan just last summer, I am sure he will bring some super flavors to the table! Geronimo, who has also been in the area for 6 years, hails from Veracruz originally and tells us that being a chef has taken a lot of time and dedication. For those looking to become chefs, he highlights the importance of really having to like what they’re doing and to have fun.
José Quiroz (chef) and Luis Alfredo Corrales (sous chef) can often be found behind the great dishes at Capone’s on Ave. Sinaloa. José, who is originally from Cuernavaca, Morelos in central Mexico, shares that he studied culinary arts in Phoenix and has worked in Arizona as well as Los Angeles, including at the Biltmore and the well-known Tomaso’s. Luis Alfredo (originally from Tijuana) and Chef José explain that their dishes highlight creativity with a familiar flare – taking basic recipes and making them more like homemade…imagine Italian countrysides with family seating.
In defending the Iron Chef title as a restaurant, this year Mare Blu Ristorante (on the Reef) presents the culinary skills of Chef Juan Caballero Guzmán who will be joined by sous chef Ricardo Murrieta. Chef Juan, who is also a consultant for numerous restaurants in helping to develop menus and business skills, explains he loves international cuisine ranging from Italian, Spanish, French, and of course Mexican dishes. Juan is originally from Mexico City while Ricardo (known as Richard to his coworkers) grew up in Puerto Peñasco after having come from Caborca. Mare Blu Ristorante is one of the great restaurants of Julio Valenzuela who also has Mare Blu Bistro (in the Old Port), La Familia (also at the Reef), and Don Julio’s (on Blvd. Fremont in the former Hacienda Las Fuentes).
Last, but certainly not least is the dynamic team of Marco Martinez (chef) and Jeovanny Osuna (sous chef) from the Coyote Grill. Marco is originally from Puerta Vallarta, and has also worked at Mayan Palace here in Puerto Peñasco. Jeovanny comes to us from Sonoyta and joins the team of Coyote Grill, owned by Adolfo Cañez, that serves up dishes with regional ingredients including Sonoran beef and of course fresh seafood. In fact, they tell us though the Coyote Grill is known for steaks and parrilladas (grilled platters), they also have an extensive seafood menu.
*Honorable mention: As mentioned above, due to circumstances beyond our control the fantastic pair of Gabriela Mata and Blanca Cuadras from the Technological University of Puerto Peñasco (UTPP) will not be competing as a team in the Iron Chef competition. Though we were all disappointed to learn of this turn of events, we are glad to see Gabriela join Mickey’s team and are also happy to announce the UTPP will have a stand at the Taste of Peñasco throughout the day!!
The Taste of Peñasco and Iron Chef Competition is Saturday, Feb. 11 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. with proceeds going to the Puerto Peñasco Fire Department and 2 Fish Ministries. Raffle tickets ($5 US or 60 pesos) available at the event for a number of great raffle prizes, plus food tickets ($1 US) for taste portions from the variety of restaurants on hand may be purchased at the Shrimp Fountain (Tickets needed for food “purchases”) One lucky winner of the Judges’ table drawing (ticket to be drawn at 11 a.m.!!) will join our great panel of judges including: 1) Ed Chilleen of Phoenix who is the mind behind “Chili Beer” and created Crazy Ed’s, in Phoenix (1962-1982) as well as The Horny Toad Restaurant in Cave Creek in 1973. He and his wife Maria then went on to open The Satisfied Frog, in Cave Creek, and ran that from 1982 until 2008. After closing the Satisfied Frog in 2008 they helped build The Satisfied Frog on Bell in Phoenix. 2) Ed Conner of Phoenix, AZ who is a gourmet chef that worked previously at the Airport Hilton in St. Louis, MO. 3) Chef Gustavo Gutierrez Cortez, chef at the Las Palomas Beach and Golf Resort here in Puerto Peñasco. and 4) Gourmet cook and long-time student and aficcionado of the culinary arts, Maria Lohmann. The fifth spot – our lucky raffle winner – will join this panel of judges and represent all of us who might not be chefs, gourmet cooks, or restaurant owners, yet nonetheless love good food and are proud of all of our Iron Chefs…Chefs de Acero…Chef Maestros!!
Follow the Taste of Peñasco and Iron Chef Competition at: www.tasteofpenasco.com