Cooks compete for best comfort food dish

Students embrace Southern tastes in cook-off fundraiser

By Mike Thomas, Scene Editor

Eight culinary teams competed in a southern cuisine Iron Chef cook-off at the Three Seasons Restaurant on Thursday to kick off the beginning of the spring semester.

Students competed for first, second and third place prizes of cookbooks, gift certificates and various cooking materials.

“We do the Iron Chef competition to get the students motivated and it gets them in the groove for the semester,” culinary arts department Chairperson Nader Sharkes said. “This also helps them learn how to work as a team.”

For an admission fee of $5, attendees got to taste eight different dishes from each culinary team, and had the luxury of voting for their favorite dish by putting a ticket in a mason jar corresponding to the team.

The Iron Chef competition made approximately $500, and all of that money goes to the culinary arts department, Sharkes said.

Students worked in teams of four to make a southern-theme dish for the competition. Some of the dishes were fried chicken fingers with potato-hash cakes, cod-fish cakes, black-eyed pea soup and lamb stew.

Culinary students freely chose teams and had to come up with a dish in one day. Students had limited resources to use in preparation of their meals.

“When we were going through the walk-in, the lamb caught our eye, so it inspired us to make a stew,” culinary arts student Katherine Doyos said. “We wanted to do something completely different than the other chefs competing.”

On the team display for Three Gals and a Guy, black-eyed pea soup and cornbread waffles stood out from the rest of the competition. The team was led by culinary arts student Eugene Reed who came up with the idea of using black-eyed peas, but gave the rest of his teammates credit for putting the whole dish together.

“The hardest part was bringing the whole dish together using black-eyed peas,” Reed said. He was prepping food for the new menu for the Three Seasons  Restaurant opening. “When you believe in something you have to stick with it and do some research on it.”

Second place in the competition went to culinary arts student Lashawn Pearl’s team. They prepared fish cakes with a Southern style sauce and a side of papaya salad. A dish so simple was not on the agenda, but the main purpose was for the dish to have “soul.” Before expanding on the idea with a saucy kick, they came up with fried cod fish cakes.

Southern cooking is all about “soul” and it brings about feelings of happiness and memories that take you to a place that you just can’t explain, Pearl said.

“This encourages us to use in-house ingredients and ingredients we never used before,” culinary arts student Vera Hayes said. “We used what we had, since we didn’t have crab we used cod fish instead.”

The winning team, Three Gals and a Guy, is using this win as motivation for the semester. They remained humble throughout the winning ceremony in front of the other competitors who were also going for the win in the cook-off.

“It gives us confidence — I’m challenging to push myself more with my cooking,” Reed said. “At the end, they are my friends, and we all wanted to win it.”