LIZ CLEMENTS| LIFESTYLES EDITOR
My first thought as I walked back to the kitchen was, “How could these students possibly make anything delicious? They’ve never cooked before. Have they?” But, as I took that first turn into the kitchen, I saw salads being plated with such precision and creativity I forgot where I was. Behind me was a fellow from Greek Life working a perfectly round cut French toast pound cake that he then placed into martini glasses. I was initially impressed and, knowing I was in their way, I left them to their masterpieces.
On Thursday, November 10th, Dining Services and the Office of Campus Involvement hosted the first ever “Student Iron Chef and Mystery Basket Competition.” The challenge consisted of two teams; student’s Erin Kerr of Sigma Delta Tau, Khanh Le of Tau Kappa Epsilon, Lazaros Kolass of Tau Kappa Epsilon, and John Gaviola of Tau Kappa Epsilon made of the Greek Life team. Students Russell Laguerre, Casey Crenny, Amber Alexander, and Joe Auleta, who are student athletes, made up the Athletics team.
Who won? Let’s see if you can decide? The judges seemed to be overall surprised and thrilled with both team’s meals. But, of course, someone’s dish had to reign supreme. Students had to comprise a three to four course meal using: chicken, shrimp, pound cake, berries, garlic, and herbs. At first, students were stumped by what to make with these ingredients. “When students first received the list of ingredients, they all seemed to look at each other with blank faces. But, once I got them moving around the kitchen, and looking around at all they had at their fingertips, you could see they were getting excited,” said Kris Solt, Director of Dining Services here in Camden.
The panel of judges included: Kris Solt, Dean Nathan Levinson, Chancellor Wendell Pritchett, his daughter, and Associate Provost Cal Maradonna. What I remember above all is the pride on Chancellor Pritchett’s face. You knew he was proud to be a part of the event, and that he couldn’t believe that his student’s could be so talented in the kitchen. I think all the judges and competitors themselves felt this pride in themselves and the team work accomplished.
The Greeks were judged first with comments from Kris Solt like, “the crostini had great texture and was a good compliment to the salad.” Chancellor Pritchett said he “loved the pesto and the salad.” I heard a secret that he doesn’t even like salad! But, perhaps the greatest compliment for the Greek team was when Chancellor Pritchett said he wanted the recipe for their shrimp tempura, and that judge Cal Maradonna described the food as “restaurant quality.”
After the Greeks left the hot seat, the Athletics team stepped up, and when they did, things got a little tense for the Greek team. The Athletics team was getting compliments from the Chancellor like, “I’d pay for that dessert it was so good. My daughter and I voted higher for you because of the dessert.” The compliments didn’t stop there, Kris Solt said, “Your main dish, the B.B.Q chicken, was sweet and tangy. The dessert? Best dessert, great job, great job.”
So, who do you think won? Drum roll please…by 2.4 points the Athletics team took the win where they received $25 RU EXPRESS gift cards. But, the win was more than just the $25. It was title, the pride, and the knowing they accomplished something truly great. When I went to get a quote from the winning team, they were so happy I couldn’t even get a straight answer. Instead, I got the following, an intertwined comment from everyone.
“This is a pretty surprising win; we had no idea how to cook. It feels great doing something like this the first time. It’s a good thing I watch all those food competition shows.”
I don’t think it was the shows or luck, I think it was talent. Often times people are scared to cook, so they don’t, and these students really surprised themselves. I’m sure there will be much more cooking in their future. Look forward to the next Iron Chef in February 2012.