• Wilson Iron Chef 2017:
    Sunday, March 26, 2017 | 1-5pm
    Wilson High School  
    The main competition will consist of three local chefs competing for the title of Wilson Iron Chef! They will have 30 minutes to create a unique dish, live on stage, using 3 of the same secret ingredients and any items from a provided pantry!
    2017 Iron Chef Competitors
    Chef Joshua Haines
    Executive Chef of Beverly Hills Tavern
    Runner up for the 2015 People's Choice &
    2016 Main Iron Chef Competition


     Joshua Haines of Allentown achieved an associates degree after attending Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in 2004.  After pursuing a career in the culinary industry, he moved onto Orlando, Florida for several years working at Universal Studios Margaretville and several other cafes and restaurants. Haines gained experience in many facets of the restaurant world from fine dining 5 course meals, to large banquet catering and high  volume production. He then decided to return to Wernersville, PA to continue a career and start a family. Josh has endeavored many new goals and passions locally including establishing a catering company, and several restaurant openings including Blue Dog Catering associated with The Tomcat Cafe,The Hitching Post, Willoughby's Bar & Grill, and now currently Executive Chef of Beverly Hills Tavern, Sinking Spring.
    Chef Tim Twiford
    Executive Chef of the Crowne Plaza Hotel
    Winner of 2016's People's Choice Competition

     Imagine having your own personal chef for your own private party of guests, complete with formal table settings and featuring an elegant multi-course menu. The unique dining experience known as Chef Tim’s Table begins with being greeted and escorted past the main lobby of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, down hallways, and — lo and behold — straight through the doors of an enormous, bustling kitchen. The chef’s hat that CIA-trained Tim Twiford wears is looming in the distance. The tall man turns around, smiles, and walks toward you in welcome. He guides you into a completely separate room that sits in an oasis all its own, smack in the middle of the kitchen’s gleaming tables and shelves, huge coolers, bowls loaded with ingredients, and cooking ranges.


    The table sits on a wooden floor, with glass windows floor-to-ceiling on two full sides. The other two walls are wooden, beautifully handmade of refurbished pallets by men who come from Hope Rescue Mission. Chef explains that his team regularly donates meals and food to the Mission — one of his many charities: “The souls of these men are here. The men were more than happy to come down and make a pallet wall for us.” It’s a wall of honor, one of many elements that contain special meaning for a gourmet cook with deep roots in Berks County.


    “Having a Chef’s Table in the center of the kitchen sets me apart,” Twiford says, smiling broadly. He loves it. “Whether I’m cooking for a Girls’ Night Out, or for a birthday, or a group who won the dinner by donating to a silent auction, it’s all about making a life impact on people.” On his Facebook page, there’s a Chef Tim Cooks for Family section — “the idea being that when, for example, someone is going through breast cancer, or another hardship, dining here puts them into a unique setting.


    They get to watch the chef, get to see the kitchen bustling around. They take a break from stress.” “This room is actually a chef’s dream,” confides Twiford. “In this room I get to create what I might eventually create for 600 people at a banquet. I go for different techniques — poaching, braising, sautéing, and you can see the end product in an educational, demonstration style.” Referring to the first course on a recent evening, he explained: “Take this salad, for instance.” Instead of a tossed salad, “This is more creative, more fun. There’s more passion in it.” 


    -Frances Wolbers, Berks County Living Magazine

    Mike Rauenzahn
    Chef & Owner, Bernville Eagle Hotel
    Bernville Eagle Hotel chef Joe Serpa, left, with co-owners Mike and Shanna Rauenzahn
    Runner Up for 2016 People's Choice Competition 

    Since the early 1990s, food lovers in Berks County have been well-acquainted with the name "Havana Joe." Local foodies have come to enjoy Joe Serpa's signature Cuban dishes and the Latin influence he brings to his creations. The popular chef, a native of Cuba, has worked at restaurants in Centre Park, Douglassville, and Pottstown. He also was a chef at Judy's on Cherry and the former Maxie's Restaurant.


    For a few years, Serpa, 53, disappeared from the restaurant scene, but by a double twist of fate, Havana Joe is back. The first twist came in 2008 when Bernville resident Mike Rauenzahn suffered an accident and no longer could work as a mechanic in the machine-fabrication industry. "It was always a dream of mine to own an old hotel, so by a twist of fate I ended up here," Rauenzahn said. Rauenzah n and his wife, Shanna, purchased Bernville Eagle Hotel in 2008. The historic hotel was built in the early 1800s and has always been the centerpiece of Bernville. Over the past several decades, it fell into disrepair and it was closed for about a year and a half. Mike Rauenzahn said, "It was a run-down old biker bar, but it was also a diamond in the rough. "The Rauenzahns reopened the bar in February 2009, but were unsure what to do about running a restaurant.


    Then the second twist of fate occurred. Serpa was in Bernville and by chance came into the hotel. "I was doing laundry across the street and came in asking if they served lunch," Serpa recalled. "Shanna was working the bar; all they had was meatballs in a crockpot. Shanna explained to me that she hadn't come up with a direction for the kitchen. I decided to ask her for an application. At that point, she didn't know who I was."


    Shanna Rauenzahn said that from the moment Serpa walked in, things just fell into place. "I was being very picky because I wanted a commitment," she said. "I didn't want to have a revolving door (of chefs). "We showed Joe the kitchen, and he knew it had potential. You could see his gears clicking." Serpa was hired two days later. "We sat down together to find out the direction of the menu," Serpa said. "I wanted to have free rein in the kitchen to be creative, but I knew I also had to keep the bar customers happy."


    Mike Rauenzahn said that when the kitchen opened, the community came out to offer its support. "We elevated the cuisine to pub fare with a Cuban twist," Serpa said. "You can get anything from an 8-ounce angus burger to paella." Among the many traditional dishes and specials, the menu features Jamaican jerk chicken, Cuban roasted pork, mango chipotle barbecue, baby back ribs, Joe's flatbread pizzas and signature Cuban cigars, which are taquitos with black beans.


    Serpa, the winner in the Hamburg Iron Chef competition, lives on the third floor of the hotel, and the Rauenzahns are working to restore the building to its former glory. Mike Rauenzahn said the interior renovations and a new kitchen have cost between $30,000 and $40,000. Plans are to renovate the front porch and build a patio for outdoor dining. Mike Rauenzahn said, "A customer came in last week and told us we have a four-star restaurant in a two-horse town. If you have a niche to get people in, it doesn't matter where you are located, they will come."


    -David A. Kostival, Reading Eagle 

    Iron Chef 2016 
    It wasn't for the faint of stomach: cauliflower and marshmallow Peeps? But a cauliflower and Peeps puree helped chef Jason Hook of Wyomissing, owner of H20 Kitchen, nab his second consecutive win in the Wilson Iron Chef competition in the high school Sunday. Peeps were among the secret ingredients unveiled for the third annual event, which pitted three Berks County chefs against one another for a friendly competition to raise funds for the Wilson Education Foundation. Competing against Hook for the title of Wilson 2016 Iron Chef were David Shefter, owner of the Penn Werner Hotel in Wernersville and 2014 winner, and Joshua Haines of Jimmy G's Beverly Hills Tavern in Spring Township. No second winner was named. In addition to the Peeps, the chefs were required to incorporate skirt steak, avocado and pickles into their dishes, which they were given 35 minutes to execute on stage before a packed auditorium. "On the fly, it's just what we do," said Hook, who was supported for the second year by his sous chef for the competition, Tim Twiford of the Crowne Plaza Reading in Wyomissing.
    Contact Becca Y. Gregg: 610-371-5032 or bgregg@readingeagle.com.

    Iron Chef 2015  

    For the Iron Chef portion of the event, the three competing chefs were set the challenge of incorporating four secret ingredients into their dishes-turkey loin, patty pan squash, quinoa, and gummy worms-revealed to them right before starting the 35-minute competition. Fresh items from the provided pantry supplemented the competitor's culinary creations. Winning Chef Jason Hook from h20 Kitchen used the gummy worms as part of a sweet potato puree that wowed the judges and set him apart from the other competitors. Second place went to Chef David Shefter of the Penn Warner Hotel, followed by Raffaele Grande from GNA Ristorante.   

     2014 Iron Chef  
    During the inaugural Wilson Iron Chef Competition on Sunday, April, 6, 2014, the three competing chefs used the three secret ingredients -- center-cut pork loin, chayote squash and half-blood oranges – revealed to them just moments before the competition along with using fresh items from a provided pantry to cook a protein and two sides in 35 minutes.

    Chef David Shefter, owner and chef at Penn Werner Hotel in Wernersville, was named Wilson 2014 Iron Chef Champion for his Mexican-rub pork roast with a blood orange demi-glaze, served with an arugula, pear and goat cheese salad, and a vegetable latke made from squash, broccoli and asiago cheese.

    Second place went to Chef Joseph Church, executive chef at the Peanut Bar in Reading and owner of Black Dog Café in Womelsdorf, for his pork scallopini with sautéed morel mushrooms and truffle butter, served with julienned chayota and yellow squash and a Mediterranean couscous splashed with the blood-orange juice.

    Chef Felix Maeitta, managing partner at ViVA Bistro & Lounge in Wyomissing, finished third for his pan-roasted pork loin with a honey and blood-orange glaze, served with a potato, squash and chorizo sausage hash and sautéed asparagus.

    Please click here to visit the Wilson Iron Chef main page.