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Teens battle for best ‘appletizers’ in Iron Chef competition

Colleen Peterson puts her team's tri-medley apples dish down on the judging table at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library's Teen Iron Chef competition April 1. (Michelle Stoffel/Tribune)

Colleen Peterson puts her team's tri-medley apples dish down on the judging table at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library's Teen Iron Chef competition April 1. (Michelle Stoffel/Tribune)

Apples helped three teenagers do more than keep the doctor away, they helped them win an Iron Chef cooking competition this weekend.

The Arlington Heights Memorial Library held its fourth annual Teen Iron Chef competition, where local teens formed cooking teams to compete for the best appetizer, judged by a panel of local chefs.

(PHOTOS: Teen Iron Chef competition.)

As with the televised Iron Chef competition, which the library event is modeled after, a secret ingredient is revealed right before the competition begins, and this year’s ingredient was the apple.

The winning creation was an apple-centered sandwich.

The six teams had just one hour, an expansive list of food supplied by Whole Foods Market, some of the library’s recipe books and a few tools to craft their appetizer.

While the audience was entertained and fed by three chefs who doubled as judges — Ann Kagan with Whole Foods Market Palatine, Dave Esau with Dave’s Specialty Foods in Mount Prospect and Michael Maddox with Le Titi de Paris in Arlington Heights — the teens were hard at work.

Siblings Kaitlyn Ball, 15, and Brandon Ball, 12, kick started their love of cooking with a holiday cooking class at Whole Foods Market. They’ve been cooking together in the kitchen and took their skills to the library to make apple butterfly pitas with friend Mickey Graf, 14.

Across the room, a team of Hersey and Buffalo Grove High Schools freshmen was crafting guacamole chicken triangles, integrating apples into their guacamole.

Justin Pfeiffer, a Hersey freshman, wants to be a chef, and will have his first two cooking classes under his belt when school lets out this summer.

“He’s always liked to cook as long as I can remember,” his mom Colleen Pfeiffer said. “His presentation and plating makes his meals real special.”

The winning team, Team Five, also wound up being the most eclectic. Two of the teammates, Madison Latona and Natalie Papazian, are sophomores at Glenbrook North High School. They were teamed with Buffalo Grove freshman Max Ackerman, who they met for the first time that day.

“We worked together really well actually, especially at the end when we all relaxed,” Papazian said.

Their winning creation was a turkey sandwich with Havarti cheese and apple on a pretzel roll. Their secret ingredient was a crumbled granola bar. The granola bars were supposed to be a snack for the competitors, but they couldn’t resist incorporating it into their dish, they said.

Though they were surprised by their victory, they hope to be back next year as a team.

“We have to defend our title,” Ackerman said.

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