ISR hosts premier Chef’s Challenge

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Dan Shah

Even though students have argued for years about which residence halls have the best food, there might finally be a justifiable answer.

On Tuesday afternoon, four of the top chefs from the Pennsylvania Avenue, Gregory, Illinois Street and Peabody dining halls met and competed in the Chef’s Challenge in the ISR dining hall.

Much like in the televised show Iron Chef, which airs on the Food Network, there were two teams, east and west, clashing in the battle for the best residence halls. The east side of ISR’s dining hall was elaborately decorated with two large platforms labeled with the team names.

Carrie Knox from ISR and Beth Partenheimer from PAR represented the east, while Peter Testory from Gregory and Chris Henning from Peabody represented the west.

The rules were almost identical to Iron Chef and judged in the same manner.

The chefs, who had their cooking utensils ready well before the start of the competition, had 75 minutes to come up with as many ways as they could to cook the mystery ingredient, whole salmon, said Louis Gornick, director of catering services and a judge in the competition. Four judges graded the courses based on creativity, flavor, plate presentation, technique and time management.

Ten minutes before the competition started, Don Block, associative director of housing dining services, introduced the four chefs to the audience. Knox, representing ISR, got the loudest ovation from her home territory.

Block, best known for his specialty meal at Fat Don’s, sported a red, glittered robe and colorful necklace with his signature aviator glasses and chef’s hat. He kept the audience entertained on the microphone by periodically checking on the progress of the chefs and also made his way around to audience members putting them on the spot.

Block also sang “Tiny Bubbles” during the competition to the amusement of many.

There were many students cheering on the cook representing their respective dorms during the competition.

Mike Fields, senior in business, cheered on the west despite his residence based on their presentation and simplicity.

“I hope the west side wins,” Fields said. “I am from ISR, but I’m going with the west. They have the clear advantage.”

He said he thought the east was a hodgepodge, blending several types of food together – something he didn’t like.

“I know a superior meal when I see one,” Fields said. “The west used simplicity.”

After the cooking period ended, the judges began judging the results. The east presented an appetizer that was a fusion between Latin and Italian food, Knox said. The west battled with an appetizer that used salmon created with a French feel and Russian influence.

The east served tea smoked salmon and Asian noodles as their entree, while the west made fettuccini with salmon and kept it mostly Italian.

After much deliberation, Block announced that the west had edged out the east. The west chefs received their medals and now hold bragging rights for the first Chef’s Challenge.

There was much praise for the competition after the conclusion.

“I thought it went really well,” Block said. “I thought it was hard for the chefs to get up there for the first time and perform in front of everyone. They did a really good job with the limited resources they had. “

But Kirsten Ruby, director of housing, said the purpose of the competition was not just to see who the best cooks were.

“It is easy to overlook when cooking for 8,000 people,” Ruby said. “These are really highly trained chefs and we want to get them out there in front of people.”

“What we are trying to show is the high quality and level of culinary (skills),” Gornick said. “There is a lot of high-caliber quality within the dorms.”

Block said the competition was a success, and that the east will have a chance to even the score next year.

“The only problem was that we were worried we would set off the smoke detectors, but we avoided that,” he said. “I think we’ll do it again.”