If a few years back someone would have said "Chef you will be cooking Kung Pao Chicken in the middle of Times Square", I would have thought that this person has gone completely bonkers. Walking amidst the tourist frenzy of Times Square is challenging enough, let alone cooking there. Cooking Kung Pao Chicken!!
Well that's exactly what I did on September 27th, 2012. NTD Television (New Tang Dynasty) serves more than 100 million potential viewers in China and around the world. Founded by Chinese Americans, and rooted in traditional Chinese culture, NTD serves as a unique bridge between the East and the West. They are committed to keeping the culture alive and well and with this in mind, they organized a very unique competition "Fire Up The Wok", a competitive cooking exhibition with five top chefs from the United States, cooking outdoors in the heart of Times Square. Fire Up the Wok was a part of the NTD Television Annual Benefit Gala with some of the proceeds going to the prestigious James Beard Foundation and to the NTD Chinese Culinary Scholarship for the Underprivileged. Celebrity Challenging chefs participating were: Julieta Ballesteros - One of New York's Best Mexican chefs, Antoine Camin - Executive Chef of Orsay, Clark Frasier - Top Chef Masters Season 4, Malcolm Mitchell - Finalist of season 8 of Food Network Star and yours truly Maneet Chauhan - Judge of Food Network's Chopped.
Judging panelists for this challenge were my favorite Susie Fogelson, SVP Marketing and Brand Strategy of Food Network and Cooking Channel- whom you all must have seen judging on the "Next Food Network Star", Chef David Burke who's an inspiration in all that he has achieved and Yunqiang Qu, Head Judge from the NTD International Culinary Competition. The pressure was on. Cooking for such an accomplished panel of judges and against a very daunting group of Chef's gave me some interesting dreams/nightmares when my daughter finally let me sleep. I was dreaming about Kung Pao Chicken for many nights before the competition-listing the different steps in my mind. We had to cook the Kung Pao Chicken following the recipe provided, in these really cool ancient-style Chinese cooking stations of NTD's mobile kitchen studios - designed to recreate the architecture of the Chinese Tang Dynasty capital of Chang'an, using only their woks and cleavers.
All of our creations were well applauded, but the winner was Antoine Camin. Congrats to him and to the really fun group of Chefs, Judges and organizers that made my experience so much fun.