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Marquette ‘Iron Chef’ competition serves up surprise

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Several teams competed in Marquette's own iron chef event on Friday, Mar. 4.

The Food Network is not the only place to find an “Iron Chef” competition. On Friday, Marquette Place in the Alumni Memorial Union hosted one of its own.

The Center for Health Education and Promotion hosted the third annual cooking competition, which gave six teams the chance to win kitchen-inspired prizes, and the pride of being called “Iron Chef Marquette.”

The six teams were composed of members Marquette Student Government, Residence Life, CommUNITY, the Residence Hall Association, the Bayanihan Student Organization and an audience team selected the night of the competition. Each team was made up of four students and one Sodexo chef.

The competition required the teams to create a three-course meal using only “student-friendly” ingredients. That meant creating an appetizer, entrée and dessert dish using such satisfying items as Ramen noodles, yogurt, granola, Cheez-Its and vegetables.

Dishes were judged based on five categories: taste, originality, nutrition, teamwork and the ability to re-make the meal.

Teams were also given spices as extra ingredients if they could answer food-themed trivia questions correctly. All the teams knew what probiotic yogurt was, but only one could name all the food groups in the food pyramid.

From there, the teams got to work in their white chef hats and aprons, mixing, cutting and microwaving ingredients from a table in the center of the “kitchen stadium.” Sodexo chefs tasted the food and offered suggestions as the teams prepared the dishes.

As they worked, the six judges moseyed around the teams’ tables, observing them as they worked. Jon Dooley, senior associate dean of Student Development, weighed in on being behind the judges’ table.

“Judging the event was a great experience,” Dooley said. “The quality of the food prepared by all the teams was quite good, and it was fun to watch the Sodexo chefs interacting with the student teams.”

And what cooking competition would be complete without action commentators whose antics and attire rivaled that of “Iron Chef America” host Alton Brown? Enter Joe Gianni, a senior in the College of Communication, and one of the commentators.

“Alright, teams, I think this competition is too easy for you,” Gianni said partway through the event. “You guys are all smiling and having fun! This is a competition, and it’s time to introduce the secret ingredients to make things more interesting!”

The ingredients were revealed to be a sweet and sour surprise. Lemons and limes were the mystery items, which had to be used in all three dishes.

Some teams garnished drinks with the fruits, while others squirted the juice onto salads or yogurt parfaits.

After the 45 minutes had elapsed, the teams brought their plates to the judges’ table, where they were presented and sampled.

Some teams cooked up creative dishes, like the Residence Life team’s “microwaveable apple pie,” a hollowed out apple half-filled with a dried-cranberry and nut mixture.

MUSG crafted a mixed greens, fruit and nut “Father Wild spring salad,” while RHA presented a fruit- and granola-filled “Yogurt-tini.”

After some deliberation, the judges announced their decision: The Bayanihan Student Organization team was deemed the winner with their zesty marinated chicken strips and peanut butter deserts sprinkled with nuts. Team members excitedly accepted their prizes of George Foreman grills.

When asked what pushed their dishes over the top to victory, the team credited the “complexity of the flavorings” on their chicken entrée and the guidance of their Sodexo chef.

“Keith was a great head chef,” said team member Mikey de Guzman, a senior in the College of Health Sciences. “We couldn’t have done it without him.”

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