Something smelled savory in Sayles yesterday- and it wasn’t from the Café. Bon Appétit’s second Annual Iron Chef competition got nine students cooking up a variety of courses with a secret ingredient during the highly anticipated event on Oct. 11 in the Sayles Great Space.
“We’re so psyched!” said Laurel Goldner ’15 of Team One. “We made all of the food last night and it tasted great.”
This term, each team had to construct several courses featuring pork from Hidden Streams Farm in Elgin, MN to present to the four judges, President Poskanzer, Dean Hudland Wagner, Eric Klein from Hidden Streams Farm, and Monica Caldwell from SEEDS Farm in Northfield, MN.
The three teams were each comprised of three students. Team One, aka The Pig Bang Theory, featured Phoebe Chastain ’14, Mollie Wetherall ’16, and Goldner and was led by Chef Vale Riggs.
Team Two, aka Team BeHamoth, had Soon Kai Poh ’14, Rachel White ’13, and Bing Shui ’16 and was led by Chef Dan Watrin.
And Team Three, aka Carleton’s Finest, was Sam Braslow ’15, Elise Gurney ’13, and Jojo Kuria ’16 and was led by Chef Gibson Price.
“We got a great team this year,” said Price. “All the food is going to be wonderful, from each team. But what separates Team Three from the others is our sense of team work and group bonding.”
Despite that Iron Chef was a food competition and the TV show is known for judging the food on its deliciousness, Bon Appétit wanted to emphasize the teamwork aspect for student competitors. To decide the winner, teams were judged on presentation, showmanship, student interaction, and taste.
To make things fair, the level of experience varied between contestants in each team. Some were experienced and burgeoning chefs who had participated in the competition last year.
“I did Iron Chef last year and had a lot of fun,” said Chastain. “I have had professional cooking experience in the past too, so I hope to bring that to the competition.”
But for others, this was their first time in the competition. “This is my first time,” Kuria said. “But I could not have asked for a better team.”
Even though teams were chosen randomly, the students were given three weeks to work with each other to plan their entry meals. Each team came up with a theme that they worked around.
Team One chose an Asian fusion flavor palate, with four courses which included pork pot stickers, spring roll and salad, Asian pork sliders, and a candied prosciutto sorbet with a pork churro and cashew bacon caramel turtle. “We have a much fresher take on Asian food,” said Chastain.
Team Two also had an Asian theme, but incorporated family recipes into their dishes. “The pork dumpling is a recipe from my mom,” said Shuri.
Added Poh, “The pork chops and jam is strong, but balanced by the other two pieces. It’s about how the dishes blend together as a whole.”
Team Three was unique in that it focused on more traditional American dishes, but with a twist. “We’re doing a nuanced take on classic Americana,” explained Braslow.
“For example, our dessert is a take on the quintessential American breakfast, with maple pancake ice cream with candied bacon bits.”
The teams each had 30 minutes to prepare their dishes. By the end, all teams and audience members were ready to sample each dish.
At the end of the competition, the judges gave a speech and lauded the teams for their individual highlights before announcing the winner. Unanimously, the judges exclaimed how hard it was to choose a top choice, as all the food was delicious.
“This was the hardest competition that I’ve had to judge,” said Wagner. “They were all so good- I want the recipes.”
President Poskanzer agreed. “Making the final decision is hard but being forced to eat all of the stuff is one of my favorite parts of being president.”
In the end, Team Three was declared the winner for best overall performance, with Team One in second place and Team Two in third.
“It feels great!” said Kuria to describe her team’s win. “I’m glad that we won, but honestly even if we hadn’t, we still had an amazing time and everyone did really well.”