The Curtis Veggie Room was buzzing on Thursday (April 3) as students gathered to watch the first annual Big Red Iron Chef competition. Four teams of three students had exactly one hour to cook a meal fit for the celebrity judges: Vice President Laurel Kennedy; Political Science Professor Michael Brady; Bon Appetit’s Chef Jonathan; and Ana Morales ’14, the student government president from Lawrence, Mass.
Since the teams were set up at tables around the dining hall, audience members were free to walk around and watch the amateur chefs work — and, occasionally, poke gentle fun at them (or try out cooking show dreams of their own). Team Killem with Kindness (Xavier Vargas ’15 of Chicago, Ill.; John Bute ’14 of Gibsonia, Pa.; and Danny Webb ’14 of Bexley, Ohio) was hard at work making chicken, couscous, and fried zucchini, while an observer teasingly tried to recreate the dramatic atmosphere of some cooking shows: “Aren’t you worried about making the chicken too early?”
“Who are you, Alton Brown?” Bute asked with a laugh.
The Fresh Pots (James Le ’17 of Hanoi, Vietnam; Kevin Ly ’17 of Stow, Ohio; and Elijah Smoot ’17 of Elk Grove, Calif.) planned to take the judges “around the world” with their dishes. The Clean Up Crew (Bridget McDevitt ’14 of Grosse Pointe Park, Mich.; Cory Van Auken ’14 of Littleton, Mass.; and Adam Safer ’14 of Naperville, Ill.) told all of the onlookers that they would offer up a “surprise” dish.
Overall, a spirit of friendly, good-natured competition dominated the festivities. “I like how the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than the TV show,” said Claire Cappelle, a first-year student from Pepper Pike, Ohio. “It’s great that they’re having a competition encouraging people to cook, because fewer students are cooking these days.”
In the end, Team Jenny is Awesome (Jenny Kim ’16 of Seongnam, South Korea; Siyu Yan ’16 of Beijing, China; and WonTack Song ’14 of Seoul, South Korea), won with a main dish of white rice and chicken stir-fry and a side of hand-pulled noodles. “I enjoyed the Iron Chef competition because it was fun to do, but it also shows that college students actually know how to cook,” Kim said, adding that she hopes to see the competition become a tradition. “I like cooking on my own time, and it was nice to see that others do, too.”
(In the interest of full disclosure, Kim is a photography intern with the Office of Communications, so we would just like to go on the record and say that Jenny really is awesome.)