Four teams of competitive student chefs cooked up some school spirit and Swai, an Asian catfish primarily found in the coasts of Cambodia and Vietnam, at the Fifth Annual Iron Chef event held on April 24 in the University Palm Courtyard.
Contestants from the groups “Honey Dipped Chocolate,” “Pre-Health Society (PHS) Chefs,” “Peace, Love and Politics,” and “LSBA Skillet” were advised a week before the grand event that there were three possibilities for the secret ingredient: Swai, eggplant, or chicken thigh. They did not learn that Swai was the ingredient they would have to cook with until the day of the Toro Iron Chef challenge. The competition began at 4 pm, and the teams had one hour to cook three dishes using the catfish and then present their dishes to the judges. This year’s Toro judges were Eric D. Rollerson, director of university housing, Dr. Tiffany Herbert, psychologist of student health and psychological services, Dr. Hamoud Salhi, associate professor, political science, and Dr. Mitch Maki, vice provost of academic affairs.
Each team of chefs consisted of four members. Honey Dipped Chocolate chefs were Alexander Jones, Jamelle Fortune, Stephen Robertson, and Alisha Fletcher; PHS chefs were Nancy Novo, Alexandra Arnao, Sahir Gharib, and Debra De La Rosa; Peace, Love and Politics brought their chefs Brenda Valiente, Nadia Kamal, Ruth Aguilera, and Hilda Aguilera; and the members of the LSBA Skillet team were Faviola Jauregui, Josue Andrade, Erika Leon, and Magali Mendoza.
L.A Trade Tech collaborated for the first time, providing talented mentors from its Culinary Arts program, with one mentor assigned to supervise each group’s cooking on the day of the event.
While the teams were cooking, demonstrations of making pasta from scratch were offered Sabrina Lupoli and Lucia Scipione, both Teacher Education exchange students from Italy. Lupoli made orecchiette and tortellini, and amazed the crowd by the way she mixed ingredients. Lucia Scipione made gnocchi, a delicious Italian pasta that is typical in Bologna, Italy, where she is from.
Carole Desgroppes, Loker Student Union programs manager, Richard Chester from campus dining, Marco Dowell from the Office of Student Life, and events and donor stewardship director Toby Bushee collaborated to bring the event to life. Cecilia Ortiz, director of the Loker Student Union, pointed out how events like the Toro Iron Chef competition generates brings spirit and Toro pride for the university. She said she would like to see the event grow and compete with other campuses.
Library specialist Lawanda Gutierrez offered some advice to contestants as they were cooking, to inspire them in their culinary creativity: “Cook from the heart every time.”
PHS Chefs must have been listening. They were named the grand winners of the Iron Chef V competition and were awarded $400 for their winning dishes of fish and chips, Caribbean rub, and ceviche. Judging criteria for the event consisted of presentation, use of the secret ingredient, taste, and bonus points for publicity.
– Reported by Jennifer Lopez, a freshman majoring in criminal justice and a student assistant in the Office of University Communications and Public Affairs.