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.”