This past Friday, Jan. 31, Dining Services held their annual Iron Chef Challenge in Danforth Dining Center. The Iron Chef Challenge developed out of the University Chef Challenge that was started by former District Chef Mary Locke and the staff of Hoeing and Crosby Halls in 2003.

In an effort to “keep evolving,” Marketing Manager Kevin Aubrey decided to put an “interesting spin” on this year’s event by adding aspects of the popular television show “Iron Chef” to the competition.

The two  key new elements of this year’s competition were the introduction of a judging panel and a secret ingredient.

Danforth Food Service Director Bob Fox, who competed with Aubrey as a team last year, described the introduction of the “secret ingredient” as part of Dining Services’ efforts to increase locally sourced food options.

Dining Services worked with ThreeSquare Kitchen, an organization that helps pair local farms with partners to sell their products.    The secret ingredient was New York grown potatoes from Greater Tater in Wayland, NY and Old Ridge Farm in Williamson, NY.

The introduction of a secret panel of judges this year added an extra element of excitement for the competitors.

The Panel included Dean of Students Matt Burns, Director of the Center for Student Conflict Management (CSCM) Kyle Orton, Assistant Director of CSCM Karen duerr-Clark, and the Assistant Director for Freshman Housing Christine Nye.  Burns emceed the event.

The competition also had a “People’s Choice Award” where students were able to vote for their favorite dish.

This year’s competition included four teams. Each team was made up of chefs, supervisors, and two Aramark managers. These teams were also assisted by Danforth staff workers.

Team Erikita, made up of Starbucks Manager Benita Aparo and Danforth Chef Manager Erik MacDavis, handmade the dough and the filling for their Italian themed dish – sausage stuffed Pierogis.

Team Salt&Pepa, including Dining Services Receiving Manager Dustin Peterson and Starbucks Supervisor Cait Arliss, made their own unique creation. They named their grilled chicken and roasted vegetable dish Chicken Savory and paired it with potatoes in two ways, sautéed and mashed.

Team Money, led by Eastman School of Music Chef Manager Devin Smith with Aramark Office Manager Lori Tomasso created a potato and herb Galettes, a French pastry topped with bacon and goat cheese.

Team Mayo included Assistant Food Service Director Ted Gawens and Catering Assistant Banquet Manager Bianca Castagnaro.  They served baked egg Frittatas with bacon, scallions, and cheese. Gawens has won the competition for the last four years, winning last year’s event with Castagnaro.

After much tasting and deliberation, the students and the judges made their decisions. The winners of the People’s Choice Award in Battle Potato was Team Mayo, led by Gawens and Castagnaro.

After his fifth consecutive win, Gawens pointed to the strategy of “cooking for students, having fun with students, and creating a good atmosphere” as the key to his success.

Team Salt & Pepa, featuring Peterson and Arliss, won the Judge’s hearts and stomachs as their Chicken Savory brought them home the biggest prize of the day.

When asked about their experience, Peterson said their success was “thanks to Antoinette[Fuller],” their assistant for the competition. In hopes of bringing home both trophies, Arliss said, “Next year we will set aside more time to interact with the students.”

O’Brien is a member of the class of 2016.


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