With the unveiling of a secret ingredient, experts on Iron Chef America are off and cooking, creating masterpieces on the fly with an aim to please the palate and win the hearts of the judges.
While the stakes might not be as high, younger chefs will get their chance to invent some healthier fare in a similar style during the first Family Fit and Fun Expo set for noon until 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, at the Cassingham Complex in Bexley.
The event is being held in conjunction with Bexley's Recreation and Parks Department and is the brainchild of the district's Health and Wellness Committee.
The Kids' Cook-Off Challenge is an Iron Chef-style cooking competition where teams of children ages 5-14 will work with a professionally trained chef to create a healthy recipe in 20 minutes. Each team will be required to use one staple ingredient in its dish and then select from a wide variety of produce, spices and condiments from the Table of Bounty to complete the dish.
At the end of the competition, each team's culinary creation will be evaluated by a panel of judges comprised of Bexley teachers and staff. Samples will be made available to the audience.
The Kids' Cook-Off Challenge is just one of the expo's featured events and will be hosted by Local Matters, a not-for-profit organization in central Ohio. The professional chefs who will lead each team of students include Janel Hedgepeth, chef at Renaissance Hotels and winner of this year's North Market Grilled Cheese Throwdown; Mark Grant, executive chef at Brio Tuscan Grill; and Laura Robertson-Boyd, executive chef at Local Matters.
Organizers say the challenge will be fast and furious.
"It's a fun and creative way to work with food," said Betty Brown, one of the event's organizers.
Other segments of the expo will give children a chance to try rock climbing, karate, yoga, dancing, fencing, basketball, and Futsal.
Each child will receive a passport listing all the events. They can win raffle prizes for completing at least one event from each of four categories. In addition, healthy snacks may be purchased at the Healthy Snack Shack.
"What we're trying to emphasize, really, is lifelong fitness habits, including making good, healthy choices," Brown said. "You don't have to be a super-duper athlete to be healthy. Probably 90 percent of us are not."
Marlee Snowdon, Bexley school board vice president and one of those who helped organize the event, agrees.
"This event solidifies our belief that wellness is more than just athletics," Snowdon said. "We want to show the community many different ways to be healthy. There are other options if you are not interested in organized sports."
Brown and Snowdon are also hoping that by getting kids together in the name of health and wellness, they may find others with similar interests -- like bike riding -- which could result in the formation of new clubs or groups.
"I think we're a pretty healthy community already, but I think we can always do things to be even healthier," Snowdon said.
The event is free and open to the public. Brown said she hopes to attract some 100 children in grades K-8. Children in kindergarten through fifth grade must be accompanied by a parent. Students in sixth through eighth grades only need a parent for the initial registration process and to sign required participation forms.
To register, visit www.bexley.org/recreation.
Volunteers are also needed for the event. They can sign up on the website at www.signupgenius.com/go/9040B4CA4A722AB9-bexley.