Birthday parties are a big deal around our house, maybe too big of a deal since my girls usually start planning their next birthday party the day after the prior one is finished. As much fun as it is for them, I think it is even more fun for me since I love planning the parties. My eldest daughter, Kenzie’s, birthday is coming up (well, not really since it isn’t until June, but we are way behind on planning, haha!) so we have been discussing ideas for what we should do. I thought it might be fun to share with you what we did for her 13th birthday last year.
Kenzie loves to cook and hopes to go to culinary school one day and become a chef. She is also a huge fan of The Food Network so when we started making party plans the first thing that came to mind was her favorite show, Iron Chef America. Of course, “Iron Chef” is a prestigious title that only a select few chefs have earned. We didn’t want to take away from that honor so we decided to name our party “Aluminum Chef America.”
We sent out invitations that told each girl they had been selected to compete on a cooking competition show, Aluminum Chef America. I wish I would have taken a picture of the invitations but I didn’t know I would be blogging about it at the time. In the invitations we also requested that each girl bring her favorite recipe to the party. Once I received all the recipes I made copies of them for everyone to take home.
We set up a video camera to record all the events of the party, which Kenzie later used to make a Youtube video. You can find the link to her video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAamYxjwzdA. The interview part is a little long in the beginning but Kenzie did a great job with the video and it takes you through the highlights of the party.
When everyone had arrived, we started out by doing pre-show interviews. The girls each used their acting skills and pretended they were real chefs. Some acted snotty and some just silly. They had us all cracking up.
We also had three judges, my youngest daughter, Faith, and two of her friends. This was a great way to include the younger sister. Those girls took their job seriously! The analyzed every dish and gave out compliments and critiques. They had the final say on how many points each contestant received. I think they loved their power.
The party was broken down into four rounds:
Round 1: Identifying Spices
Round 2: Secret Ingredient
Round 3: Cupcake Decorating
Round 4: Create your own Dish
In round 1 the girls were given twelve small dishes that each contained a different dry spice. They had to try and guess which spice was which. I gave them a sheet of paper that had all the spices, plus one extra for confusion, randomly listed.
To all of our surprise, Kenzie figured out all twelve spices. I must say, I was proud of her. Each girl received a point for every spice she guessed correctly. You can tell by the top of her paper that Kenzie was acting as the snotty, conceited chef.
The judges made the determination of points for rounds 2-4. For each contestant’s dish they judged on taste, plating and originality. The maximum number of points a dish could receive was as follows:
Taste – 10
Plating – 5
Originality – 5
The points were then totaled from each round and a final total of all the points was used to determine the winner.
Round two was the Secret Ingredient round. I had a towel covering a plate which held the secret ingredient they had to use for this round – eggs.
Once it was revealed to them I also gave them a basic scrambled egg recipe and then let them go from there to put their own spin on it and plate it however they wanted. They were allowed to change the recipe however they wanted and include any side dishes they chose to make along with it. They only had 30 minutes to complete the round. I had half of them cook at a time in order to keep everyone from running over each other in the kitchen.
After the judges tasted and critiqued the egg dishes, we went on to round 3; cupcake decorating. This was an especially fun round for me since I have so many different cake decorating tools and goodies. I had pre-baked the cupcakes and made a batch of white buttercream icing. I laid out a huge table covered with every tool, icing color, and edible decoration they could want. It was so fun to see how creative they got with this round.
The judges were also especially fond of this round. When the game show was over I let them decorate the rest of the cupcakes and those served as the birthday cakes.
Here are the cupcake creations. They made three of each so that each judge could critique and taste one. Even though I had pre-baked the cupcakes, they chose whether they used a chocolate or vanilla cake and they also had the option of putting a filling in it.
Round four was the most intense round of all. This was the round when they could create whatever dish they wanted and plate it however they chose. The only rules were that they had to use at least one item from each tier of a 3-tiered cart and they had only an hour to finish their dish.
I stayed close by to make sure that meats were cooked thoroughly and sanitary food handling techniques were used. I gave them free access to my refrigerator and pantry and told them they could find it they could use it. It was so much fun to see them running around the kitchen like in the real cooking shows.
I was so impressed with their final outcomes.
So were the judges!
During the judging for this final round, my husband threw a pizza in the oven for our chefs who hadn’t eaten in hours, despite all the food they kept preparing for the judges. The girls got a small taste of the pressure and conditions that the chefs work under in the real shows.
Kenzie wasn’t particularly fond of one of the judge’s thoughts.
Once the judges made their final critique of the individual dishes we tallied up the points from all the rounds and announced our winner who we gave the official title of “Aluminum Chef”. She also received a recipe box and a gift card to the mall.
It was one long, but very fun, day. My husband and I did the dishes while we let the girls swim for a while to relieve their stress then they all watched No Reservations (a great movie for any inspiring chef) before bed.
The next morning we continued with our whole chef theme and Kenzie taught the girls how to make crepes.
They each got to make their own crepes for breakfast.
I then pulled out a bunch of different spices and gave them each an empty spice jar. I had found a variety of different spice mixture recipes online (such as pumpkin pie spice, Italian seasoning, etc.) so I printed them out and let the girls look through them. They each picked one out and used the spices to make their own mixture.
They place these mixtures in their jars and took them home along with the recipes and the rest of their cooking inspired party favors, all of which I got at the dollar store.
By the time their parents arrived to pick them up I think we were all exhausted, but in a good way. It was a party we will never forget, especially since Kenzie later took the video footage and made a Youtube video with it. I think it was probably my favorite party we have done so far… of course I say that every year.
Now to figure out something good for this year.
Until next time, God bless and Sweet Dreams.