Iron Chef Contestant Shares Story, Recipe for Thanksgiving Leftovers

Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

Photo credit: Paul Ishii, Mayflower Park Hotel

Long before his appearance on the Food Network's reality-based Iron Chef America in 2011, Wayne Johnson cooked for his roommates while he attended UNC as an accounting major and competed on the wrestling team.

Using the money they would have spent on processed foods, he made meals from scratch. Not only did they taste better, they also cost less, he said.

Johnson didn't have an inkling he would someday operate his own restaurant while he was working at two now-defunct Greeley eateries - Conan's Cave and The Firehouse Restaurant.

"I think I fed the whole campus pizzas from Conan's in 1979!" Johnson said, reflecting on the former 8th Avenue eatery.

He says his mother always told him, "Boy, you're a jack of all trades. You need to master one."

He mastered two.

"I could not be more pleased that I studied business and accounting," Johnson said in a telephone interview from Seattle, where he's executive chef of Andaluca Restaurant, Oliver's Lounge and the Mayflower Park Hotel.

"It's given me a world of confidence in the budgeting and cost controls that are so very important in running a restaurant."

After leaving UNC, Johnson worked in a variety of positions in a hotel in Vail before finding his way to San Francisco where he worked as an executive chef in several Bay-area restaurants.

Twelve years ago, he moved into his current position in Seattle, which is where a Food Network producer approached him about competing on an episode of of the Iron Chef America show, a timed cook-off between top chefs who are given a surprise ingredient to use moments before the contest begins (in Johnson's case, a cucumber).

And although he didn't defeat Iron Chef Michael Symon, Johnson said he was glad he had the opportunity to compete.

"My experience on ICA was surreal," Johnson said. "To be asked to cook on the show was amazing but then to be on the floor of kitchen stadium was like ‘wow.'"

- Brittany Sarconi, Sport and Exercise Science graduate student

Thanksgiving Croquettes
Yield: 8-10 appetizer servings or 2 dozen hors d' oeuvres

2 cups Mashed potatoes, cooled
1 cup Turkey meat, cooked, cooled, minced
1 cup Dressing, prepared, cooled
½ cup Cranberry Sauce
As needed Salt
As needed Black Pepper

2 cups
All Purpose Flour
2 cups Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs)
2 cups Eggs

How to make the filling
Cool the mixtures in the refrigerator until it's firm and easy to handle. Mix potatoes, turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce until well blended.

How to assemble the croquettes
Make 1 ½ - 2 oz balls out of the filling. Set a breading station (Pans of flour, eggs and bread crumbs). Dip them all in the flour first, then egg and last Panko. Chill in refrigerator for about 1-2 hours. Fry in 350º F oil until it's golden brown. Serve with turkey gravy on top.

A Recipe Created by Johnson on Iron Chef

Green Gazpacho Soup
Yield: 9½ cups (serves 3-4)

1 TBSP Garlic, minced
4 oz Onion, coarse chopped
1 lb Kirby cucumbers, seeded, coarse chopped
4 oz Green bell pepper, coarse chopped
1 oz Cilantro, coarse chopped
1 oz Italian parsley, coarse chopped
6 oz Potato bread, crusts removed - cut into 2" cubes
8 oz Romaine, washed, coarse chopped
8 oz Celery, coarse chopped
1/2 cup Olive oil
1/3 cup Sherry vinegar
3 cups Water, cool
1 TBSP Salt Mix 3:1 (see recipe procedures)
1 tsp Black pepper, fresh ground fine

Puree all ingredients in batches, using a little liquid in each batch. After pureeing, mix batches well in a large container to ensure even flavors. This soup must chill at least 2 hours to let flavors blend. Serve after refrigerating.