By Merle Exit
Queen’s newest kings of the kitchen took home the top prize in a citywide cooking competition last week after wowing the judges with their fiery Sichuan hot pot.
The young crew of culinary creators hails from Flushing, Bayside and Jamaica, and have been working together as a group to hone their skills.
They competed as Team Abbe, named for the Marion McMahon Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing, where these cooks take part in the Junior Battle Chef programs at this location of the Boys’ Club of New York.
“Our Junior and Teen Battle Chef program is offered in all three of the Boys’ Club of New York clubhouses,” Stephen Tosh, executive director, said. “The boys choose recipes from many world cuisines, including West Indian, Creole, Chinese, Thai and Italian.”
Also competing at the 2016 championships held at the Flushing clubhouse were young cooks from the Harriman Clubhouse on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and the Elbridge T. Gerry, Jr. Clubhouse from East Harlem.
The Junior Battle Chef program is for members who are ages 10-12. The Teen Battle Chef program is open to members 13 and older.
Both classes, created by FamilyCook Productions, a Manhattan-based culinary and educational program developer, offer lessons in nutrition and cooking skills. Chefs learn to read a recipe, to handle a knife properly and to expand their knowledge of world cuisine, Tosh said.
“While some of our members have spent time in the kitchen with their parents or grandparents, most of them have very little experience cooking,” Tosh said. “Many boys are familiar with heating soup or sometimes baking, but they learn to chop onions, cook rice, and sauté vegetables at Boys’ Club of New York.”
The other teams made Thai chicken satay and shrimp jambalaya.
Tosh said because most of the Boys’ Club events usually happen at one of the two Manhattan locations, he wanted to make sure Queens was well represented at this first-time competition in the borough.
“We decided to ask Queens-based chefs, critics and social media personalities to be our guest judges,” Tosh said. “We really wanted this event to celebrate Queens, and celebrate Boys’ Club of New York’s significance in the Queens community.”
Judges included Chef George McKirdy of Astor Bake Shop in Astoria, Chef Hugue DuFour of M. Wells and Queens Eats Instagrammer Joe DiStefano.