Culinary exhibition highlights skill, joy


Byron Agu / The Advocate

A hungry student is served by a chef at the spring semester culinary arts Iron Chef Competition on Feb. 6

By Evalyn Soungpanya, Advocate Staff

Aqua Terra Grill brought a fresh approach on vegetables with their Spring Semester Culinary Arts Iron Chef Competition themed “From The Ground Up.”

The buffet-style event brought people together, students and staff. The restaurant filled quickly and bustled with patrons who queued up to enjoy the student crafted dishes.

Most were vegetable selections, however, some were offered with little meat for carnivores.

Culinary arts professor, Elisabeth Schwarz, said the spring semester competition is more successful than the fall one and about 100 people have come in.

“It seems like we have a better turnout today and we have a group of students that are quite good and very enthusiastic,” Schwarz said.

The competition took place on Feb. 6 from 11-12:30 p.m. where people dined at an all-you-can-eat buffet for the price of $7.

The annual competition takes place at the start of each semester to promote the opening of Aqua Terra Grill and to raise money for the culinary arts department.

As customers entered the restaurant, they were given a ticket to vote for their favorite meal’s team. Five teams served their original dishes to patrons and urged them to vote for their team.

After everyone had been served, three winning teams were chosen and given gift baskets.

The items inside the baskets ranged from custom dolls created by culinary arts Chairperson Nader Sharkes to cookbooks, coffee and wine.

Team Soul 2 Sool’s, Amanda Harris, said each summer students travel to Italy to study cuisine as part of a scholarship program. Traveling expenses are paid for by fundraisers that don’t include the Iron Chef competition.

The dishes were also plentiful and ranged from chicken stir-fry, zucchini mushroom lasagna, curry chicken or potato cabbage rolls to vegan mole tacos.

After people finish their meal, they’re urged to vote for the best team. This gave customers the chance to go back for as much food as they want.

However, the urge to win isn’t what means most to some chefs that competed.

Team Alboe’s, Cheerio Hounthavong, has been part of the college’s culinary program for a year and has his own ideas of what the event stands for.

“The drive for everyone to work as a team to serve food and enjoy friendly competition is the best part,” Hounthavong said.

Team Comfort Food’s, Comfort Mensah, also says seeing people enjoy her team’s meals is amazing since it’s her first time participating in the competition.

“It’s amazing, beautiful. Seeing people coming here to enjoy the meal and see the happiness and smiling faces. That makes me happy,” Mensah said.

The winners were announced at the end 12:40 p.m. by Sharkes.

It followed with Team “Comfort Food” as first place, Team “Alboe” as second place, and Team “Rooted” as third place.

Team “Comfort Food’ served zucchini mushroom lasagna and zucchini cheddar tots. Customers Demetria Lawrence and Avemar Tan-Pineda said the zucchini mushroom lasagna was their favorite.

“It didn’t even taste like it had vegetables, so I liked it since you can’t taste the vegetables and it’s healthy,” Lawrence said.

Following, Team “Alboe” served buffalo cauliflower and flyin’ Hawaiian sliders.

Team “Rooted” served vegetarian Verde tacos and vegan mole tacos.

Team “Soul 2 Sool” served veggie wraps, chicken stir-fry, and fried rice.

Lastly, Team “Mother Truckers” served curry chicken cabbage rolls, and curry potato cabbage rolls.

Schwarz also says the competition is at the start of a new semester which has new students that have a chance to work together and achieve a common goal. She says the competition encourages creativity at the start of the spring semester not seen later since there’s a specific menu that the students have to follow.