March 13, 2002

Iron Chef Inspires Culinary Creativity

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There was an unusual face-off last night when the Iron Chef cooking competition took over North Star Dining in Community Commons. The heat was on when approximately sixty people watched five teams prepare dishes in under an hour — in the vein of the cult cooking show of the same name.

“Just mash, mash it faster, you’ve only got 30 seconds!” shouted Anthony Frasso ’04 at Team Crackpot which prepared miniature chicken kiev with golden mashed potatoes.

Competitors were allowed to use North Star’s food, spices and equipment with the single requirement that all dishes include the night’s secret ingredient — chicken.

Husband-and-wife team Zoe Leanna Cohl ’04 and Peter Cohl ’04, calling themselves Team Americana, won the competition. Their most popular dish, “Tipsy Chicken,” didn’t just ‘taste like chicken,’ which included onions, pears, garlic, red peppers and brandy.

“The taste and presentation were excellent,” said Prof. Joe Reganstein, food science and a judge. “They tackled an ambitious collection of recipes and executed them well.”

“It’s fun to put our skills to the test with real professionals,” said Peter Cohl. “We held our own against [two teams of] Hotelies and that’s a big deal.”

One of the most challenging aspects of the competition was the one-hour time limit, which judges deducted points for tardiness.

“I had a lot of ideas coming in but I didn’t get to do at least a half of them,” said Rico Screpka ’02, captain of Team Destiny.

While teams occasionally had a tough time locating supplies and equipment, they all performed excellently according to the judges, a panel of culinary professionals and students.

“I love the energy level and the passion,” said Delmar Crim, the senior executive chef of Cornell Dining. “They all really care.”

Enthusiasm about the dining attraction wasn’t limited only to the judges.

The Iron Chef competition was part of a series of programs created this year by the Dining Ambassadors.

The Dining Ambassadors encourage students to join meal plans and become more involved in dining at Cornell.

“These are programs for the students,” said Sarah Fox ’02, founder of the Dining Ambassadors. “It’s all about getting students talking about dining. Dining is community.”

This year, the Dining Ambassadors hosted ‘Chocolate’, attracting approximately 400 people to taste international chocolates and also showing the movie Chocolat. Other events included ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’, showcased Chinese food while Mardi Gras, centering on southern cuisine.

“The perception has been that we’re only here for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Scott Davis, operational manager for Cornell Dining.

The dishes were judged on presentation, taste, texture and color with points taken off for time abuses, cleanliness and sanitation. Prizes included a Best Buy gift certificate and CityBucks to use at off-campus dining locations.

Team Americana’s three winning dishes will be featured on the North Star menu some time in April.

Team Laison earned second place and the Crackpots grabbed third.

The Iron Chef competition was based on the cult Japanese cooking show that has since spawned Iron Chef parties and a new Iron Chef USA TV show hosted by William Shatner.

Archived article by Peter Norlander