Iron Chef Event Benefits Leah’s Pantry


As I’ve mentioned before I am very proud to be a member of the board of directors of Leah’s Pantry, a non-profit organization which provides multi lingual cooking workshops and nutrition education to seniors, families and children living in transitional housing and homeless shelters throughout the Bay Area and San Diego.  Last week we had our first fundraising event to raise funds and awareness for a new Leah’s Pantry initiative – Food Smarts Cook It! Kits.  These kits are filled with basic cooking items (slow cooker, spices, knives, cutting board) to enable seniors and individuals living in SRO’s (single residency occupant hotels) to create healthy food for themselves and neighbors without relying on free meals from St. Anthony’s and Glide.


What better way to showcase cooking than a San Francisco Iron Chef style competition?  The competitors were Dennis Leary of Canteen restaurant and Jennifer Puccio from Park Tavern.  Both chefs were very generous with their expertise and time as they cooked from a surprise bag of ingredients with shrimp as the main protein.  There were two 15 minute competitions – one for an appetizer course and one a main dish.  Unfortunately I was not a judge, as the food looked and smelled wonderful.  Thankfully there was plenty of wine and tasty food provided by Haight Street Market, for the rest of us to enjoy while the chefs cooked and the judges reviewed.  The event was held on a beautifully warm night in San Francisco (that rarely happens) at the owner of Tante Marie’s cooking school.  Mary was a delight, as was her welcoming home and lovely garden.


There were some special guests and judges including San Francisco Supervisors representing those in the neighborhoods where Leah’s Pantry is educating such as the Tenderloin and Bayview Hunter’s Point.  There were also some loyal community organizations such as Hamilton House, that first partnered with Leah’s Pantry six years ago when it was founded.  There was a raffle held prior to the event and the winners won a spot at judges table and as sous chefs.  Sounded intimidating at first, but everyone had a great time.  A real Iron Chef winner, celebrity chef  and restauranteur Kerry Simon of KGB and Prime restaurants in Las Vegas and Los Angeles also stopped by to lend support.  Hopefully this will become an annual event and expanded to include more spectators.  I’ll let you know…