What is it like to win a live cooking competition when the clock seems to be ticking at warp speed, you have minimal cooking facilities with which to impress a panel of prominent judges and are faced with a basketful of mystery ingredients that completely redefine the word random?
In a word: Awesome. That’s according to Eve Elenhorn, winner of the September 14th Grand Women’s Cook Off benefiting the new birthing center at Laniado Hospital in Netanya.
Elenhorn, a weight loss and fitness coach and personal trainer who lives in Brooklyn, decided to throw her hat in the ring for the Chopped-style competition after seeing an Instagram post about it. She faced off against fellow contestants Batsheva Goldstein and Meira Shulman, cooking for a panel of judges that included Elan Kornblum, Itta Werdiger-Roth, Jeff Nathan and Levana Kirschenbaum, all well-known personalities in the foodie universe.
The 27-year-old Elenhorn actually started cooking long before she got married, but after the birth of her second child she realized that she needed to lose weight. She began changing her eating habits and tweaking her recipes and saw the pounds start to disappear. The results were so impressive that she began posting her revamped creations on Instagram and several years, and more than 2,000 recipes later, Elenhorn’s Flavorful_Fit Instagram account has close to 9,000 followers.
Elenhorn’s years of experience as a chef and recipe developer served her well at the cook off when she opened her basket of mystery ingredients and found herself facing red snapper fillets, cooked black eyed peas, summer squash, leeks and silan, aka date syrup. All in all, it was a pretty balanced selection of foods.
Except for the candy corn, the final basket ingredient.
Working candy corn into a fish entree that would impress the judges seemed like a bit of a stretch, especially for someone who is devoted to healthful cooking, but Elenhorn used the brightly-colored candy to flavor the water that she used to poach her red snapper.
“The candy corn doesn’t really dissolve but the flavor comes out when you soak it in hot water,” explained Elenhorn.
While her fish was cooking Elenhorn hit the pantry that was available to the three contestants. and mixed the garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, sliced almonds and the silan into a dressing that she poured over the black eyed peas. Rounding out her plate, Elenhorn served up thinly sliced leeks, sautéed with dill and salt, and twice cooked zucchini that was first dipped in boiling water and then grilled in a frying pan.
“When you blanch the zucchini in water it becomes more tender and then when you grill it, it has a totally different taste,” explained Elenhorn.
The contestants had just 30 minutes, a pot of boiled water, a frying pan and a single electric burner to put together a winning plate. Despite the pressures and the difficulty of working with an eclectic mix of ingredients while facing an audience of several hundred women, Elenhorn found herself plating her creation just 12 minutes after she began cooking.
“I don’t know how I managed to do that,” admitted Elenhorn. “At home I do play around a lot with ingredients and, some days, when the refrigerator is almost empty, I grab whatever is inside and just pull something together.”
With 18 minutes to spare, Elenhorn devoted the remainder of her time to presentation, piling her plate high and garnishing her creation with fresh lemon and herbs.
The winning plate was chosen based on three factors: taste, creativity and presentation. Finding out that she had won the competition, along with two tickets to Israel, was a surreal moment for Elenhorn.
“I just jumped up and down,” recalled Elenhorn. “I was so in the moment and so amazed. It is really a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Elenhorn was the fourth highest fundraiser for the event, bringing in $425. To date, the cook off has raised a total of $9,903 for Laniado Hospital.
Currently a student at the Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan’s Flatiron district which specializes in health-supportive culinary education, Elenhorn hopes to one day open up a vegetarian-vegan restaurant, giving those who eat out the opportunity to make healthy choices.
“Even the healthy restaurants today are still over-portioned,” said Elenhorn. “I want to do something that is really healthy.”
Elenhorn is looking forward to using her prize tickets and she is planning a special visit to Netanya.
“Right when I won I said that when I go to Israel I am going to have to go visit the hospital,” said Elenhorn.