The Sedgebrook retirement community in Lincolnshire not only held its first Iron Chef Invitational Sunday, but it also had its own entry.
Sedgebrook Executive Chef Kira Eggert and Sous Chef Vanna Hong pit their culinary talents against those of executive chefs from Eddie Merlot's and Fleming's.
And it was home cooking that prevailed, as Eggert earned top honors.
With a panel of judges and Sedgebrook residents looking on, each team prepared an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. Each dish featured a secret ingredient: lobster for the appetizer, a Kona steak rub for the entree and star anise for the dessert.
Le Cordon Bleu-trained Eggert was the audience favorite, with residents including Sara Cooper and Herb Quist cheering her on.
"She's so good, we're afraid somebody is going to steal her away from us," Quist said.
For her appetizer, Eggert, originally from Peru, whipped up a langoustine tempura with Vietnamese noodles, a mango relish and wasabi aioli.
Eddie Merlot's executive chef, Arlington Heights resident Aric Spiczka, and Sous Chef Rosario Fernandez presented a dish with shrimp and lobster tail poached in butter, with a Maryland crab mix and a blue cheese crust.
Fleming's Chef Partner Steve McCarty and Sous Chef Anthony Brinkman offered butter poached lobster, shrimp grilled with chipotle smoked pepper seasoning, and a watercress salad with toasted almonds, green apples, diced oranges and a tarragon vinaigrette.
Eggert said she became interested in the culinary arts at 18 but originally pursued a legal career. That was before her association with Le Cordon Bleu, which sealed the deal.
"I knew I wanted to always cook and I'm very passionate about it," she said.
Ryan Springer, Sedgebrook's community resources manager, said, Eggert might have the hardest job at Sedgebrook.
"You have over 500 residents in our independent living side, and to accommodate every different taste bud is a challenge," he said.
Jim Alexander, the facility's executive director said the competition coincided with the start of restaurant week in Lake County. Next year, he said, it will be bigger, with more restaurants taking part and a series of playoffs.