Honey, goat cheese, and wonton wrappers were among the ingredients assigned to contestants in the University’s first student cooking competition, “Top Chef @ UConn,” which took place in Rome Ballroom on Nov. 2.
The event featured 10 cooking stations, each with teams of two. The challenge for competitors was to prepare three separate dishes with the pre-selected ingredients, which also included salmon, Serrano peppers, and chocolate chips.
Although the contestants were required to use all the ingredients, the dishes they prepared were remarkably dissimilar.
Staggered at intervals of five minutes, each team was given one hour to prepare and garnish their dishes, only to be judged moments after the time expired. Four judges tasted the dishes, provided feedback, assigned a score, and deliberated among themselves before announcing the winners: Wenhui Sun and Amir Nasser Bigdeli of Team Wen/Amir.
Judges included John Saddlemire, vice president of student affairs; Linda Levine, president of Hillel’s board of directors; Dennis Pierce, director of dining services; and guest Hosea Rosenberg, the Season Five winner of Bravo’s Top Chef.
“They all look kind of nervous,” said Rosenberg. “I think it’ll be very interesting to see what they come up with.”
Despite some minor setbacks, including dish towels set aflame, and billows of smoke from burnt oil, the night was a showcase for UConn’s culinary talent.
Gary Wolff, executive director of the Hillel, said the success of the evening proved there is potential to make this an annual event.