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Chef Mangelos whips up most funds
Ripon Chef John Mangelos checks the heat under one of his original soups at the Modesto Center Plaza Thursday night cook-off extravaganza. - photo by Photo courtesy of Marty Bicek
RIPON — Lemon grass was the last-minute secret ingredient that Ripon Chef John Mangelos had to work into his entrees  at last Thursday night’s Iron Man cook-off competition with two other chefs.

Mangelos, the owner of Ripon’s Barnwood Restaurant, was credited for bringing in some $6,000 that went to the Doctors Medical Center’s Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Several tables of Ripon residents were up front in an audience of some 600 people rooting Mangelos on in what was described as a “nerve racking” competition.

Kathy and Steve Van Dyn along with Jamie and Ron McManis of Ripon were the most vocal cheer leaders, Mangelos said.  He was surprised Friday morning in receiving a congratulatory bouquet at the restaurant for his culinary efforts coming from the owners of the McManis Winery.

Mangelos said Ron and Jamie were just wonderful and Kathy went out and had posters made for the event complete with a photo of the Ripon chef that she put on sticks going around to the other guests as they were enjoying appetizers lobbying for votes for Mangelos and his Barnwood Restaurant.

“The community support makes you feel so good – and for $50 it wasn’t cheap,” he said.  “It was wonderful, we had a blast!”  

Sous Chef Mike Arend’s family bought an entire table to watch their favorite son at a cost of $500.

“When I do the Olympics no one pats us on the back – this ratifies what you do.  It’s cool!” he added.  Ron and Jamie McManis bid on several auction items bringing in more donations in the Mangelos and Barnwood Restaurant’s effort.

The assisting sous chefs – Mike Arends and Bruce Dix – said they too had a lot of fun and weren’t at all intimidated by the television cameras.  

“Bruce and I were laughing and trying to stay out of John’s way,” Arends said.  “It wasn’t nerve racking for us as it was for John.”

While the event didn’t start until 5 p.m. Mangelos and his crew started to get their pantry in order at 1 p.m. cutting herbs they were planning to use in the creations of their entrees – also cutting vegetables and eggplant.

At 4 they were allowed to set their stage up for the competition.  Prior to that time none of the chef teams were allowed on stage.  They put in place their food processor, their juicer, blenders, and a deep fryer – any equipment that he and his staff had brought to the competition.

Once they were set and ready to go they had to wait until 6:30 when the secret ingredient was revealed, which in this case was lemon grass.  

“Lemon grass is an interesting ingredient,” Mangelos said, “because you can’t put lemon grass into a dish because it’s too weighty, it’s much like bamboo.”

He explained that normally the stem has to be crushed to remove the oils.  

“The first thing I did was to crush the lemon grass stalks and put them in a non-reactive  stainless steel pan and we added a bottle of McManis pinot grigio to the stock pot and started reducing it by about 25 per cent,” he said.

During the preparation time he Frenched 10 lamb chops, which means he removed the meat from the bone and cleaned them from the bone so he would have a nice bone to work with.  
In preparing the entrée he took the lamb chops and covered them with an herb mix – the same one used at the restaurant – with oregano, rosemary along with schezuan pepper corn – simmering the herbs mixture with the lemon grass before it was poured over the lamb chops.

“You actually make them – the lamb chops – like a lollie pop.  So it looks like a stick with a lollie pop,” he said.  “They are beautiful!”

“We took avocado and fresh basil and rolled it up – kinda like a napkin – so it makes a tight little roll.  Then you take a knife and cut across the basil – making ribbons out of the basil.  We took strawberries, cut them in quarters and put them in a bowl – took blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, put it in a bowl and added basil to it – tossed it and took the avocado and cut the avocado up and set it in the bowl with the basil,” he added.

“Then I took pink Himalayan salt which comes in a rock, and I grated it over the berries – really good with fruit – and tossed it all together, put it on a plate, and placed the lamb chop, when it was done, on top of that adding balsamic vinegar with lemon, cooked that and reduced it by half so that the balsamic vinegar took on the flavor of the lemon grass. And then I took a little bit of Myer lemon and put it in there also and put a little glaze over the lamb chops with that,” he said.

In all, each of the three competing chefs had to produce a total of four entrees for the four judges and a table of five – 36 plates total.