Competitive cooking came to Columbia this afternoon. Read on to see who proved their culinary capacity and who fell short.
Coinciding with the premiere of season four of Bravo’s Top Chef, the Hartley-Wallach Living and Learning Center hosted their own cooking competition this afternoon. The first Annual LLC Iron Chef Competition pitted fellow Hartley-Wallach residents against each other. Thirteen teams of two faced off to decide who could whip together the most sophisticated and savory dishes.
At the commencement of today’s events, the LLC Iron Chef Committee unveiled the secret ingredient: Rice Krispies. The organizing committee of the LLC Iron Chef incorporated a special ingredient into the competition’s parameters both as an homage to their titular predecessor, Iron Chef, and also to unify the different teams’ dishes with common ingredient. The teams were then given twenty dollars and three hours to come up with an entrée and dessert of their own creation.
The judging began at six o’clock this evening and within forty-five minutes the culinary aspirations of some amateur CU chefs died, while others triumphed. Before the judging began at six, the chefs primped their dishes with the devoted attention of a Mom backstage before her daughter’s beauty pageant. And just like a backstage Mom, the chefs snuck glances to size up their competition.
After an unexpected musical interlude of Spanish hits, including Manu Chau, Ricky Martin and the Gloria Gaynor’s classic, “I Will Survive”—in Spanish no less—the MC introduced the panel of judges, comprised of a trio of Columbia personalities. The criteria for judging the dishes were based on taste, innovation and incorporation of the special ingredient.
The judges gave lower scores to the chefs who seemed to throw the special ingredient onto their dishes as an after thought. There were some strange concoctions like lamb shank studded with Rice Krispy toppings. The chefs of this dish certainly were ambitious in their selection of meat, but they missed the competition’s underlying theme—the incorporation of the Rice Krispies. The judges responded with appropriately low scores.
The chefs who used the special ingredient as a springboard for culinary inspiration succeeded. Several teams relied on the classic cereal crusted casseroles and Rice Krispy treats that typify generic American cuisine. But the numerous portions of Rice Krispy crusted chicken fingers, Rice Krispy potpies, and crunchy crispy sweets did not sate the judges’ appetite.
It took the innovation and culinary vision of Justin Vlasits—our very own Bwog daily editor—and his co-chef Chanel Tran to satisfy the judges. Receiving fine nines from two the judges and a stingy seven from the third, Chanel and Justin’s tripartite tapas plate won the first annual LLC Iron Chef Competition.
Channeling the flavors and spices of Asian fusion cuisine, Justin prepared meatballs over rice noodles and adroitly used Rice Krispy as a substitute for bread crumbs. Complementing the meatballs were Justin’s own Rice Krispy crusted chicken satay and Chanel’s seafood Cassoulet. For dessert, Justin paired his Asian pear and Lychee fruit salad with Chanel’s Rice Krispy and green tea, white chocolate cookies. Although Chanel’s cookies are quite a mouthful to say, the mouths that tasted them were quite pleased!
Even before the judges’ announcement, the winner was clear. Justin proudly claimed his prize, a three pack of white “I <3 NY” shirts. Afterwards a disappointed chef approached Justin. Eagerly Justin launched into an explanation of his dish. The other chef interrupted him, “No, I just wanted to see what the prize was.” Justin held up the shirts, “It’s not much,” he replied, “ but it’s all about the glory.”