Mystery ingredient – “I’m Asian…just as good as a chef”!

When you bring a fresh fruit or vegetable into my workplace, you may just have brought in the “mystery ingredient”.

In my workplace, as with many office places, there are similarities. There is a mini kitchen complete with refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven and a giant drawer of mismatched utensils including a fist full of dull knives that I continually try to sharpen (straighten the edge) against another dull knife. In the case of these knives, I have concluded that two negatives do not make a positive.

Many times throughout the year, a bag full of fresh fruits or a particular vegetable may be brought in from a various source, often times from one of the employee’s home garden or fruit tree. Many of the employees here are pretty good gardenerds (typo…but a funny one), and almost all have their own homes so there is a lot of fruits and veggies that flow through the kitchen. Today was no exception… except today, the zucchini that lay in wait quickly turned into the “mystery ingredient” for today’s competition.

This new game is now called “Top Office Chef”. The rules are as follows:

1) Use any ingredients available in the office building. Yup, all of those half-jars of tartar sauce and bottles of hot sauce can be used, even those little fast food condiment packages hiding inside the drawers.

2) Personal lunches or their contents are not allowed to be used in any way.

3) Personal ingredients that individuals may have hidden at their desk are completely fair game, and the contestants may ask and scrounge for whatever they need.

4) Use only ingredients currently in the office building (i.e. you cannot go to the store or request anything be delivered)

5) Use only the utensils, foil, dishes, pots, pans or cups etc. that are part of the existing kitchen.

6) Use only the appliances existing in the building. Yes, this can include the washer and dryer…if equiped; and don’t be making salsa through the garbage disposal.

7) Tools, cleaning supplies, equipment or chemicals  from the janitor’s closet are strictly forbidden, unless you can somehow get somebody to actually eat cleanser without their knowledge…you sicko!

GO FOR IT! Find the next “Top Office Chef”.

So…I find three large zucchini upon arrival today and inquire about their source. Speaking with the individual I got a brief recipe idea for using the zucchini should I decide to take one of them home. I decided rather to try to make a treat so we can all have a little something with our morning coffee. I sliced the largest one on a bias and lay them on a foiled toaster oven pan and sprinkled the slices with salt, pepper, a very light drizzle of some kind of bottled balsamic vinaigrette dressing, a Subway Sandwich extra virgin olive oil packet and a couple of packs of Dominos grated parmesan cheese from deep in my desk drawer. I bake them in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until I had just the right color and tenderness. I serve it out on the counter and the feeding frenzy ensued. I instantly receive compliments about the quick execution, creative thinking and use of ingredients that were available; and, of couse, my supreme culinary prowess.

About several minutes of serving up the treat, I hear more commotion coming from the kitchen area. Hmmm, what is all the noise? I must investigate. Sure enough another member from our office had taken stride at his attempt for a creation. My initial dish had all but disappeared, a competetor has arisen, and his attampt was now in the oven. An innocent Vegan bystander arrived at “Office Kitchen Stadium” and had asked what the competitor was using for his ingredients. His ingredients included Dominos red pepper flakes, KFC biscuit butter, and, as the competitor claims, “soy sauce…to add the Asian element”. The bystander raises his hands in disgust and says, “the whole butter and soy sauce thing just sounds wrong”. The bystander further explains to the competitor, now pointing at me, saying, “he’s a trained chef…he knows what he’s doing”. The competitor stares down his nose at the Vegan and politely scoffs, “I’m Asian…that’s just as good as any chef”. Now… THAT was funny!

Anyway, this type of competition is great for team building, camaraderie and honing fine culinary skills… you know, all of that corporate BS. So bring in a plain ingredient item from the farm, garden or balcony herb bucket. It’ll give us the chance to again call out “Mystery Ingredient”, and clean out the fridge once again.

Yes his was also safe to eat.


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