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After a day-long battle, Iron Chef Eugene 2011 has been crowned.  We congratulate Chef Heidi Tunnell of Creswell’s Heidi Tunnell Catering Company on reigning supreme!  Her win was all the more impressive, given she’s 38 weeks pregnant.  Chef Tunnell will go on to battle at Iron Chef Oregon at The Bite of Oregon festival, which will take place at Waterfront Park in Portland on August 12-14.  Just about the time she plans to give birth.  Will that slow her down?  We think not!

Check out my behind-the-scenes (or rather, front-of-the-scenes) photo set of the three rounds of competition.  Even as the emcee, I couldn’t resist taking a few snaps.

You’ll see all four chef contestants and their sous chefs at work: Chef Tunnell, Chef Mike Meyer of Red Agave, Chef Shane Tracey of Nib Modern Eatery, and Chef Max Schwartz of Agate Alley Laboratory.  The theme ingredients were: Battle 1 (Tunnell/Meyer) – Our Family Farms’ pasture raised chicken; Battle 2 (Tracey-Schwartz) – raspberries and Huerto de la Familia’s blackcap raspberries; and Championship Battle (Tunnell-Schwartz) – Oregon dungeness crab.

I was so impressed by the competitive spirit this year — the dishes that came out of the outdoor kitchen were impressive.  And even though the chefs were intense and focused, they were also kind and generous toward one another when we had technical difficulties.  The camaraderie on stage was very much felt and appreciated.

I’ll write a post about my favorite moments of the Bite of Eugene festival later, but right now I need to get ready to talk about the competition on KLCC’s Food for Thought radio show.  Listen to me, the new Iron Chef Eugene, and judges Ray Walsh of Capitello Wines, Jeff Kandarian of King Estate, Boris Wiedenfeld, and Ryan Stotz dish on the experience — noon – 1 p.m. today on 89.7. [Edited to add: listen to the archived version of the program here. Heidi and I tune in around about a third of the way through the hour.]

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