Iron City Chef

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Iron City Chef is a cooking competition held yearly since 2009 which pits local chefs against each other at the Culinary & Hospitality Institute at Jefferson State Community College's Hoover-Shelby campus on Valleydale Road in Hoover. The competition is similar to the Iron Chef television show on Food Network and is sponsored by Vestavia Hills Rotary Club.

The chefs in the competition, typically four but sometimes three, prepare an entrée and a dessert for about 300 guests, who vote for their favorites. The two chefs receiving the most votes then meet in the finals, where they have 30 minutes to prepare a meal using a mystery ingredient. A team of judges selects the overall winner, who receives a stainless steel Iron City Chef skillet. Each chef is assisted by a sous chef, all of whom are students at the Culinary & Hospitality Institute. The winning chef's sous chef receives a $1,000 scholarship.

The event raised more than $80,000 during its first five years for the math and debate teams in the Vestavia Hills City Schools, the local Rotary disaster relief fund, and Rotary International's End Polio Now and Clean Water For the World campaigns.


The inaugural competition was won by Veranda on Highland chef Thomas Robey. Other competitors included Robert Kamm of Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa and Clif Holt of Little Savannah Restaurant and Bar.


On July 24, 2010, Robey won for the second consecutive year, defeating Kamm in the final round. Other competitors were Holt and Angela Schmidt of Chef U and formerly with John's City Diner. Student Meredith Martin of Hoover was the winning sous chef.


Robey won the competition held on July 16, 2011 for the third consecutive year. Holt advanced to the final round. Schmidt and newcomer Haller Magee of Satterfield's were the other two competitors.


The July 21 competition saw Jeremy Downey of Bistro V in Vestavia Hills defeat Schmidt and Sean Butler of Food Studio B. Robey did not compete in 2012, after returning to be head chef at Commander's Palace in New Orleans.


Haller Magee returned to the competition, defeating Downey, Butler, and James Pruitt of Todd English P.U.B. on July 13, 2013.


Magee, Downey, Butler, and Pruitt all returned for the sixth annual competition on July 26, 2014.


  • Carlton, Bob (July 16, 2010) "Birmingham chefs compete in Iron City cookoff sponsored by Vestavia Hills Rotary Club." The Birmingham News
  • Carlton, Bob (July 28, 2010) "Thomas Robey of the Veranda on Highland defends title at Birmingham's Iron City Chef cookoff." The Birmingham News
  • Carlton, Bob (July 14, 2011) "Thomas Robey of Birmingham's Veranda on Highland returns to defend Iron City Chef title." The Birmingham News
  • Carlton, Bob (July 22, 2011) "Thomas Robey of Birmingham's Veranda on Highland wins third straight Iron City Chef title." The Birmingham News
  • Carlton, Bob (July 17, 2012) "Birmingham chefs compete in Vestavia Hills Rotary Club's 4th annual Iron City Chef showdown." The Birmingham News
  • Carlton, Bob (July 9, 2013) "Four Birmingham-area chefs compete for 2013 Iron City Chef championship." The Birmingham News
  • Carlton, Bob (July 19, 2014) "4 Birmingham chefs, including defending champ Haller Magee, return for 2014 Iron City Chef event." The Birmingham News