Westminster students line up for a culinary showdown
By Alicia Greenleigh
Let’s be honest: College students aren’t known for making nutritious, home-cooked meals. The most appetizing food in a dorm room is probably on TV as Bobby Flay lays down another culinary smack down.
But for a fun change of pace, students at Westminster College created their own Iron Chef-inspired cook-off — with a twist. All aspects of the challenge embraced college life on a student budget, with equipment you might see in a dorm room, said Stephanie Carter, of the Westminster public relations office.
Six teams of five students were challenged to create an appetizer in 20 minutes, entree in 30 minutes and dessert in 20 minutes. Instead of a stove and oven, students cooked on tables with George Foreman Grills, portable propane burners and microwaves. Instead of farm-fresh products, they cooked with lunch meat, canned tuna and instant rice. Students also had to incorporate secret ingredients into their dishes, including cheese puffs, canned soup and Honey Nut Cheerios.
“I guess I have a reputation [among my friends] as a good cook,” said Tyler Seldomridge, 22, one of the student chefs. “I don’t really have a game plan. Depending on the [ingredients], it might be funny to go for the record of the grossest meal.”
After each round, students served their dishes to judges James Enoch, a chef in the Shaw Student Center on campus, Helen Hodgson, a professor of communication and former food editor of Salt Lake Magazine, and Aimee Frost, assistant director of student life. They considered taste, originality and plating, rating dishes on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the best.
“I’m looking for a really creative dish,” Enoch said. “Something not complicated, simple and unique that makes me want to taste it again.”
At the Wednesday, Dec. 1 competition, student chefs showed off their creativity. One team cut a “w” for Westminster out of a tomato and served it as a garnish to accompany their guacamole dip. Another team ground the cheese puffs to dust and sprinkled it on top of their egg and bagel appetizer. The extra work seemed to impress the judges.
In the end, the Gastronomators — with Eric Nielsen as head chef, Blanca Ramirez, sous chef, Jacob Kovac, Brian Fredrich and Johannes Jogi as prep cooks — claimed the victory. For its winning appetizer, the team created a tuna salad stuffed into a hollowed-out tomato, served on a bed of fresh spinach with a toasted bagel.
The main course was seashell pasta, onions, broccoli and mushrooms in an Alfredo sauce, garnished with ham, tomato, spinach and mozzarella cheese with a side of toasted garlic-bagel strips. For dessert, the team whipped up a layered delight with vanilla wafers, Honey Nut Cheerios, melted marshmallows, sauteed peaches, whipped cream and fresh raspberries.
“I told the team prior to the competition that as long as the food was edible, making it look appetizing would ensure first place,” Nielsen said.
The Gastronomators each won a George Foreman Grill. Second runners-up won $15 gift certificates to Whole Foods, and third-place winners received a week’s supply of Ramen noodles.
Daniel Shoemaker, a bystander, thought the competition looked “really cool.” “I was impressed with the stuff they were making. I’d probably eat that guacamole bowl.”