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Stu­dents had the chance to get exper­i­mental with food this past weekend as they com­peted to create the tastiest cuisine.

The Student Activ­ities Board hosted “Charger Chopped,” a cooking com­pe­tition event over Parents Weekend on Sat­urday, Feb. 29. The Weightless War­riors Team dom­i­nated the com­pe­tition to earn the coveted title of Chopped Cham­pions. 

Twelve teams hustled around the Old Snack Bar, sharing ingre­dients and grill space with their com­petitors while brain­storming a tasty way to combine mushroom — the secret ingre­dient — into their entrees. Spec­tating stu­dents and vis­iting parents lined up around the side­lines of the work­places, sharing their support and enthu­siasm.

Judges William Pearson, social media spe­cialist for Bon Appetit; Fiona Shea, assistant director of alumni rela­tions; and Clare Nalepa, a cre­ative team member of SAB, said they were excited for the day’s com­pe­tition.  

“I am setting the bar low so that when we get stuff that isn’t good I am not as freaked out by it,” Pearson said. “But the more I talk to people I think there are some cool things being made. The only thing I’m worried about is the exe­cution. Can they execute what they say they are going to do and make it look and taste good?”

The selected teams tested their culinary skills against fellow class­mates on three main cat­e­gories: flavor, use of the secret ingre­dient, and “insta­gram­ma­bility” of the dish. There were three types of mush­rooms including oyster, dried, and shi­itake. 

Amidst their rush, the teams were excited for their odds and showed team spirit and cama­raderie. Team His­panic Flavor — freshman Nina Bedard and juniors Jonathan Burton and Juan Vargas Her­nandez — chose their team name based on their desired choice of cuisine. 

“Our team is His­panic flavor and we are making tor­tilla wraps,” Bedard said. “Our inspi­ration is from Juan’s Spanish roots.” 

“We love Mexican cuisine,” Burton said. “I am a Spanish major and Juan is from Columbia so we have a shared interest in that. We are really excited for the judges to try it. I think we have a good shot.” 

After one hour of planning and cooking time, the teams offered their dishes to the judging panel. The judges had pos­itive com­ments, including that they appre­ciated all the work the teams put into the com­pe­tition. 

Although the judges awarded aprons and herbs to the grand cham­pions, the judges gave out hon­orable men­tions to the winners of each of the three sub-cat­e­gories. Clare Nalepa gave out the Flavor Award to Rachel Warren, David Morris, and Kendall Doer, the members of team So Fresh. Nalpea com­pli­mented this team for their culinary success. 

“So Fresh created a very dif­ficult dish using the ingre­dients we pro­vided for you,” Nalepa said. “It was a very cohesive dish.”

Purdy, Baldwin, and Weis, team Peach Kings Return, won in the mystery ingre­dient cat­egory.

“We thought this team did very well at changing the actual con­sti­tution of that mystery ingre­dient to make it dif­ferent and taste really good,” Shea said. 

For his favorite cat­egory of “insta­gram­ma­bility,” Pearson chose Thomas Curro, Malia Ambrosia, and Celina McGowan rep­re­senting the Weightless War­riors. 

“What we were looking for here is whether it is some­thing that, when I am scrolling through my feed, I am going to stop and ask where I can buy it,” said Pearson. “It is just beau­tiful and you want to know what it tastes like.” 

The Weightless War­riors said they were excited about their recog­nition not only for their Instagram strengths but also for their award as overall Chopped Cham­pions. Senior Celina McGowan said she was sur­prised. 

“I hon­estly did not expect to win. I am not super expe­ri­enced in cooking,” McGowan said. “We just came up with a couple of ideas, and I think Malia’s idea to fry the mush­rooms was the thing that made us win. We were down to the last second plating food.”

The overall com­pe­tition was a great success and everyone enjoyed testing their culinary skills.

“I thought this com­pe­tition went very well,” Shea said. “We saw a lot of cre­ativity which was what I as a judge was looking for. I think we had a really great use for the mystery ingre­dient, just like I had hoped pre­vi­ously. I was def­i­nitely most impressed with our winning team for their pre­sen­tation of their dish, closely fol­lowed by the rosotta which was the second place.” 

Shea also men­tioned her hopes for future com­pe­ti­tions. 

“Being a judge, the hardest part was that there is no cat­egory for prep time or exe­cution. So watching the teams getting ready for an hour and seeing the way they were prepping their ingre­dients was really cool. I feel like that was a big part of the com­pe­tition. Hope­fully next year we can add that cat­egory. Overall, it was a great oppor­tunity to watch the stu­dents unleash their cre­ativity.”