Steel Chef Challenge

The Steel Chef Challenge is back! Join emcee Chef Alex Guarnaschelli of the Food Network in this special fundraiser for the New Hampshire Food Bank.

I am unapologetically a Food Network fangirl. There is a decent amount of space in my memory dedicated to facts about celebrity chefs: Don't give Scott Conant raw red onion or dare mistreat pasta in his presence. Only fools enter fish battles with Masaharu Morimoto. Geoffrey Zakarian appears to live in a suit coat, complete with pocket square. In any given competition, Bobby Flay will make at least five sauces, and four of them will have some sort of dried chili. I suspect this vault of information exists somewhere in the same quadrant of my brain that can recall late-'90s era song lyrics on demand and identify episodes of "Buffy" from a single scene. So, in other words, a really important part.

Joking aside, I'm thrilled to learn that our friends at the New Hampshire Food Bank are once again offering an opportunity to meet one of my favorite chefs — this year Alex Guarnaschelli will take over hosting duties for Robert Irvine at the third annual Steel Chef Challenge.

Two years ago, the live cooking competition (and fundraiser) — think "Chopped" meets "Iron Chef" — debuted at the Manchester Downtown Hotel (formerly the Radisson). As we enjoyed the multicourse dinner prepared by Chef Irvine's team in the Armory ballroom, we watched as he took the stage to dole out mystery ingredients (like fish or Captain Crunch) to New Hampshire chefs, encouragement and, of course, criticism. Pity the chef who screws up under his watchful eye. It was all in good fun, of course, and for a worthy cause. During the VIP hour prior to the competition, he graciously took photos with fans while local restaurants served up craft cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.

It was a blast to watch Chef Irvine's tough love (or just tough, period) approach in person, but I have to say, I'm excited to see what Chef Guarnaschelli will bring to the event. Ever since her fierce performance on "The Next Iron Chef: Redemption" in 2012, I've enjoyed watching pretty much anything she's on. Whether she's a judge, doing her amazing Iron Chef thing or sharing her favorite dishes to eat, her dry sense of humor (she even performed a one-woman comedy show, "Busting My Chops," on Broadway), quick wit, no-nonsense attitude and passion for cooking all shine through.

Before she was a familiar face on the Food Network, she began her career in France, where I hear they're kind of into fine dining. While there, she worked in some of the country’s best restaurants, including esteemed chef Guy Savoy’s eponymous three-star kitchen in Paris. Once back stateside, she spent time at top restaurants in New York and LA, eventually becoming the executive chef at Butter Restaurant in NYC, where she creates her own eclectic American and green market-inspired menu. In 2015, she also opened the Driftwood Room at Nautilus South Beach in Miami, Florida, which is the same year the aforementioned comedy show opened on Broadway. This just grazes the surface of her many accomplishments – you can read more about her here.

The evening starts with a special meet-and-greet VIP cocktail reception at 5 p.m. Tickets for the opportunity to meet Chef Guarnaschelli are $200. The rest of the evening starts with cocktails at 6 p.m., followed by the competition start at 6:30 p.m. Dinner is served at 7:15 p.m., and the 2018 Steel Chef winner will be named at 8:45 p.m. Individual tickets (which do not include the meet-and-greet) are $125. Click here to purchase tickets  and don't wait! Tickets are limited and will sell out.

Whether you're a Food Network devotee like me or not, this is truly a can't-miss event. Everyone here at New Hampshire Magazine is proud to be a sponsor of this outstanding fundraiser. We hope you'll join us in support of the crucial work and services provided by the New Hampshire Food Bank.