Stand aside Iron Chef America, there’s a new cook in town, and when they’re given a secret ingredient, there’s only two things one can say.
At least that was the atmosphere last Friday evening when William & Mary held its first campus-wide Iron Chef tournament of the year in the Commons dining facility. The event, a repeat of a similar Iron Chef competition that look place last Spring, involved four student groups of four in an all-out one hour cook-off to determine who indeed, "reigned supreme."
“It was organized by a student organization last year, but it was so successful that we wanted to do it again,” Chelsea Bailey, a marking assistant with W&M Dining Services who helped organize the event, said.
In lieu of a secret ingredient, participating teams, some of which were created before the event and some of which were put together on the spot, were each given a ‘mystery box’ of different ingredients to use during their competition
Student chefs were told that they had to use at least four of the core ingredients, which ranged anywhere from cold-water Australian lobster tails and double cream brie to ramen noodles and Turkish apricots. In addition, students were also given access of up to nine goods from a “pantry” of supplies containing fresh vegetables and herbs to several oils and spices.
When coming up with the ingredients, Bailey said that the chefs tried to have fun with it and incorporate everyday college foods into the batch also.
“Our chefs like the fact that there’s Top Ramen in there, I think that’s the secret ingredient,” Bailey said, “I think they feel that it brings out the ‘college flavor’ in this Iron Chef competition.”
Denis Calihan, executive chef for William & Mary, said that the astounding assortment of ingredients was to show the type of materials that dining services encounters every day in their work.
“What we want to show all the students is that typically, we get that ‘oh they opened up a can and added a pile of salt, and there’s their lunch,’” he said. “We wanted to make sure that they were aware that we use jasmine rice, basmati rice, Arborio rice, different types of rices, grains flavors, seasonal vegetables. And we have a lot of fun with it.”
As for the final judging, a panel of five judges made up 75 percent of the total tally, and 25 percent of the judging came from Dining Services Chef Manager Arnie Preib in the form of a sanitation, safety, and product presentation score.
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Mark Constantine, who served as one of the five judges for tasting, said that he was looking forward to the innovative types of dishes to be presented at the competition.
“They’ve got a lot of good supplies to work with. Chicken seems like one of the main things people are working on, and some have crab legs and lobster tail to work with,” he said, during the competition. “It’s interesting to see what the students can come up with.”
In the end, the winning team, named the “Madras Men,” took first prize with an appetizer of brie, apricots, and apples with whipped cream along with an entree of stir-fried lobster and chicken noodles with a side of salted asparagus spears and eggplant with raisins.
As winners of this round of Iron Chef, “Madras Men” will be given the opportunity to take part in an upcoming Iron Chef battle against a Virginia Commonwealth University cooking team during the Spring Semester.
“It’s gonna be good, we’re gonna rock it!” the Madras Men said after their win Friday. “We’ll really have to get prepared, because this was a really unexpected victory.”