Annual Iron Chef showcases culinary prowess

By Stacie Guevara, Advocate Staff

The aroma of Mediterranean cuisine lured students and faculty alike through Campus Center Plaza to the Aqua Terra Grill for a buffet-styled event aimed at raising money for CCC’s culinary arts department.

The “Next Iron Chef” competition held on Thursday took place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and offered patrons a chance to come in and have all-you-can-eat for lunch for $7.

Culinary arts department Chairperson Nader Sharkes said the culinary arts students took a trip to Italy over the summer on a scholarship opportunity and learned skills there.

These skills were on full display during the competition.

Upon entry, customers would pay the entrance fee and receive their voting tickets and plates before getting in line for the buffet-style lunch.

The Mediterranean-styled cuisine consisted of dishes ranging from beef gyros, a cheese plate, chicken/vegetable Marsala, beef kebab, pasta salad, arancini and gelato.

The restaurant was busy, bustling and filled to the brim as this is a rather popular event annually.

“On a buffet day, we serve close to 100 people, such as students, faculty and community members,” culinary arts laboratory assistant Angel Chau said.

At the end of the meal, customers were urged to vote for their favorite team at their leisure. There was also the opportunity to go back for as much as they wanted.

Team “Bellisimo” won first place while Team “Molto” won second and Team “Alimini Smile” came in third.

Team “Bellisimo” prepared “Dirty Birdy Chicken” along with a choice of either strawberry or green tea gelato for dessert.

Team “Gyro Heros” made a valiant effort with their Greek beef gyro dish, but traditionally, gyros melt in the mouth and are not so breakable.

The gyros of Team “Gyro Heros” were rather brittle and had a bit of a crumbly consistency to them, but their taste was superb.

Their gyros were on a small pita bread and were served with tomatoes and cucumbers, with a choice of tzatziki sauce either dribbled on top or on the side — a traditional Greek meal.

Team “Alimini Smile” prepared a chicken/veggie Marsala with fresh-made fusilli pasta with lemon.

Team “Molto” made the Italian dish of arancini topped with sauce, however, some customers were not too fond of it because they did not exactly know what the dish consisted of or what it was supposed to taste like.

Arancini are rice filled spheres with a special ingredient in the middle, in this case, it was mozzarella cheese. The combination is then coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.

The dish is meant to be eaten drizzled with sauce and are not supposed to be too overpowering or tasteful.

The sauce is there to provide a bit of a kick and that extra savory flavor.

The cheese plate at the beginning of the buffet was a general cheese starter and it consisted of cheeses such as cheddar, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Culinary arts professor Elisabeth Schwarz said this was opening day for Aqua Terra Grill where the students work together in a team during the first semester of every academic year.

While most events like this were previously held primarily to help fundraise for studying abroad or other culinary arts activities, this event was organized to support Aqua Terra and the CCC culinary department.