The Gastro Games
Once you get your family in the kitchen, it's time to start planning your first Gastro Games.
The Gastro Games began when my father asked his kids to compete against each other in the culinary arts in honor of his birthday. It is an intense competition for both the cooks and the judges.
In the Paulding family games, Clayton (older brother), Alice (younger sister) and I are the head chefs, with our spouses as the sous chefs. This can be a good lesson in communication, as Adam (my husband) and I quickly found out.
Each team presents the following courses on tasting size plates:
· Entree with two sides
· Signature Cocktail (can be presented at any point, with any course)
Judging is done in pairs of two, and the final score must be reflective of agreement between the judging pair.
Adam and I are the current reigning champions and our trophy sits proudly in a prominent area. Here was the winning menu:
Appetizer: an herbed goat cheese slathered on grilled crostini, then covered with a medley of mushroom varieties, drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction
Entree: pan roasted duck breast with a black cherry and balsamic relish, with a duck fat potato puree, and roasted Brussels sprouts
Dessert: chocolate mousse cake with layers of dark chocolate ganache, milk chocolate whip, vanilla bean infused whipping cream and a spun chocolate garnish
Signature Cocktail: champagne infused grapefruit sorbet frozen into a grapefruit rind wedge
Below is the criteria our judges used when contemplating their scores. You and your family can adjust or make your own scoring system! To help with making a family dinner a special event that isn't too cumbersome to repeat, I suggest adding in components that relate to
table setting and kitchen clean up.
Original Gastro Game Judging Categories
The point scoring system will use 4 categories:
Taste [10 potential points]
Execution [10 potential points]
Presentation [5 potential points]
Creativity [5 potential points]
Explanation of Categories:
Taste: This reflects only the taste of the course. No other considerations should be taken into account when judging.
Execution: This is a judgment on the technique and skill shown in the course.
Presentation: How does the food look?
Creativity: Have we seen this dish before?
Scoring guidelines and consideration can be found below:
10: Perfection. One of the best courses you've ever had in your life. How you imagine the Iron Chef offerings must taste on the show.
9 - 8: Great. Top tier restaurant quality food. Complex flavors which all marry well. You would gladly pay for this in a restaurant. Any issues you find are nitpicks.
7 - 6: Good. Quality pub food or mid level chain restaurant quality. Minor missteps in seasoning, flavor, or taste.. You would have no problems eating this again.
5: Passable. Think Denny's. Nothing special. Moderate missteps in seasoning or flavor combination.
4 - 3: Poor. Major issues with seasoning, flavor, or taste. You would send this back in a restaurant. Would not eat it again.
2 - 1: Terrible. The dog gets an unexpected meal tonight! Poor dog.
This is a judgment on the technique and skill shown in the course. This should be scored independent of taste. Poor execution could result in a lower taste score but each category should be scored separately.
Examples of things that should be considered for the Execution score are:
· Was the food served at the proper temperature?
· Is the texture of the food as it should be? (i.e. is the rice sticky or cooked correctly? If the pasta was intended to be served al dente, is it? Is the sauce too thick or too runny?, etc)
· Is the food cooked properly? The intent of the chef should be taken into account here. If the chef intended meat to be served medium rare, was it?
· Are there bones in your fish?
· Are chopped items consistent in size?
· If something is prepared with a certain technique (i.e. julienne, was it done well?), etc.
10: Perfection. The meal was cooked perfectly. You cannot find a single flaw in the preparation of the course or any of its components. Very advanced or cutting edge techniques were used and pulled off well (i.e. liquid nitrogen, or other modernist techniques, homemade pasta, etc)
9 - 8: Exceptional. Any issues are nitpicks. Perhaps a sauce could have been a little thicker or thinner, or something cooked a tiny bit more or less. Moderate to Advanced techniques were used and performed well.
7 - 6: Competent. There are some flaws, but overall the meal was prepared well. One component of a course with a noticeable misstep, or several components with minor ones. Moderate techniques were used and performed well.
5: Average. One component with a moderate misstep and others with minor ones. You would not expect a professional chef or cook to have prepared this meal. Basic to moderate techniques were used to varying success.
4 - 3: Poor. One component had a major misstep or several had moderate ones. Sticky rice, burnt items, scales on fish, inedible items on the plate (i.e. string, fish bones, etc). Basic to moderate techniques were used which were not pulled off well. Several components are pre-made (store bought) instead of being made by the cooks.
2 - 1: Terrible. Complete failure in technique. Food may be unsafe to eat.
Presentation should take into account the vessel on which it is served, the layout on the vessel as well as colors and appearance should be considered. Food which has been carved or shaped should be rewarded if it was done well.
Did you make this for dinner already this week? Have you heard of these ingredients before? Has the chef reinvented something in an exciting way? Is the plating photo-worthy? Will you talk about this to friends next week?
I hope you and your family will send me pictures of your Gastro Games!
Cook in good health,