When Ben Chenoweth was in third grade, he made peanut butter toast for his friends and family.
Not just ordinary peanut butter toast, but Ben’s famous peanut butter toast.
A layer of brown sugar on top melted into the creation, creating a gooey delicacy that tasted like a peanut butter cookie.
He went on to take home economics at Bayfield High School, then worked in the kitchens at Giuseppe’s, a now-shuttered Italian restaurant that was located across the street from BHS, as well as Steamworks Brewing Co.
On Wednesday, he will make his debut on “Iron Chef,” working with his boss, celebrity chef Ming Tsai.
“It was great fun,” he said in a telephone interview from Big Sky, Montana, where he is executive chef at the Yellowstone Club, an exclusive domain for those who enjoy golf and skiing. “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”
“Iron Chef” was a Japanese cooking show that was transplanted to the U.S., where it appeared on the Food Network.
The show is now on Netflix, and “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend” will appear on Wednesday. A feature of the show is a secret ingredient that the celebrity chefs and their sous chefs prepare, then their creations are judged by celebrities and other chefs.
In the official trailer for the show, Chenoweth is carrying a live sturgeon out of a tank full of water. The other contestant drops her sturgeon on the ground, while he carries his slippery fish to the kitchen for preparation.
“It was just a great opportunity,” Chenoweth said of the opportunity to appear on “Iron Chef” with Tsai. “It’s a culinary challenge with the best chefs in the nation, the biggest names in the industry.”
The other secret ingredient he and Tsai had to use was chocolate.
Chenoweth and his family moved from California to Bayfield when he was a youth. After graduating from BHS, he attended the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, moving on to work in restaurants in Oregon, Washington and California before starting his six-year stint at the Yellowstone Club.
“Ben was always the nicest guy to everyone,” said Nick Hansen, a classmate of Chenoweth’s who grew up in Bayfield and now lives in Seattle. “He had his own outlook on life, which is probably where he got the creativity to become a world-class chef.”
Chenoweth said he considers himself a modern American chef who uses regional foods in season whenever possible. In California, that’s a lot of seafood; in Montana, it’s beef and bison.
He said he enjoys the hospitality end of his profession and being able to take care of his customers.
He is the son of Eva and Mike McKenzie. His mother remembers that he was always interested in cooking and would sit on the counter when he was a baby while she was cooking in the kitchen.
“Ben loved cooking at such an early age, it was incredible,” his mother said. “He even carved out a cucumber and put ranch dressing in it in third grade.
“We couldn’t be prouder of him,” she said.