Junior Leagues "The Dinner Party Project" may sound like the title of an indie film, but if you had happened upon Noe Valley's Edison Charter Academy on Dec. 18, you'd have discovered it to be a fete thrown by 33 fifth-graders for their families. The event was only one of 20 such tot-hosted evenings across the country, part of a kickoff for a national project. The five-part series of in-class and homework activities helps kids learn about nutrition, food safety, meal planning, etiquette, and cooking. Organized with the help of Bruno's chef Chris Pastena, Edison's feast included minted white bean dip and honey-mustard pork chops -- a far cry from the pancake days of home economics.
Cook or Be Cooked Kitchenware company Sur La Table hosts an array of local celebrity chef cook-offs through January at its Maiden Lane location. Similar in format to the hugely popular Iron Chef TV series, the SLT version pits two chefs against each other in a timed cooking trial. Contestants are given two proteins, one starch, three seasonal vegetables, two seasonal fruits, one cheese, and one exotic grocery item. The timer starts ticking at 10 a.m., and the opponents have a day to whip up five dishes, which they then present to the panel of judges at the store at 6:30 p.m. The moderator is Chronicle writer GraceAnn Walden; judges include Michael Chiarello (Tra Vigne), Arnold Rossman (Redwood Park manager), and Joanne Weir (cookbook author). Head-to-heads include Traci des Jardins (Jardinière) vs. Loretta Keller (Bizou) and Sylvain Portay (Ritz-Carlton San Francisco) vs. Brian Bistrong (Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay). Ringside tables are limited to 22 and run $60 a pop.