This week, Pomona College students had the chance to put their culinary skills to the test by competing in the first Iron Chef Pomona competition.
The competition began Monday at Frary Dining Hall, where teams of four students made desserts for a panel of judges. On Tuesday, the top four teams were supposed to move on to Frank Dining Hall for “Iron Frank” to make meals for the judges using a secret ingredient. The final round, “Iron Frary,” was to be held Thursday, when the top two teams would compete for the title. Due to last-minute dropouts, however, Iron Frank was the final round, with two teams competing.
The competition was first held two years ago and was organized by the Food Committee. This year it was organized by North Campus Representative Tracy Zhao PO ’13.
The top two teams competing in Iron Frank were Pomona-Pitzer Swim and Dine, whose members were Madeleine DeMeules PO ’14, Kyra Stone PO ’15, Jackie Tran PO ’15, and Mia Hahn PO ’16; and Huevos Rancheros, with Gabrielle Baum PO ’13, Juliet Carnoy SC ’13, Flori Garcia PO ’13, and Kristen Trofa PO ’13.
For Iron Frank, the judges were Pomona Registrar Margaret Adorno, Senior Associate Dean & Director of Housing and Operations Frank Bedoya, Frank Dining Hall Chef Michael “Mike” Gove, James Gordon PO ’15, and the night’s MCs Darrell Jones III PO ’14 and Wes Haas PO ’15.
Judges challenged the teams to make three dishes each—one appetizer, one main course, and one dessert—all using the secret ingredient of kumquats. Both teams had ninety minutes to cook, with judging beginning at 6:30 p.m.
“The judges rated each dish on a scale of 1-7 based on three categories: taste, presentation, and originality. There was a bonus category for any exceptional things the judges wanted to give extra points for; some judges used this category, and others did not,” Zhao said.
Judges only revealed the secret ingredient 15 minutes before the start of the competition, which certainly forced team members to think fast and be creative.
“Half our team hadn’t tasted kumquats before the competition. So we really had to think on our feet,” Trofa said.
In the end, Huevos Rancheros came out on top, although this did not deter P-P Swim and Dine from future culinary endeavors.
“The Pomona Iron Chef activity was awesome! I had a great time baking the preliminary dessert with my teammates, and the Tuesday evening competition in Frank was lively and fun. I’m looking forward to another appearance by Pomona-Pitzer Swim and Dine next year!” DeMeules said.
“I thought the competition was a fun experience, and it was cool trying to come up with creative ways to make dishes out of what was provided. It was also less stressful than I anticipated, because the members of our Iron Chef team have had to make dinner for the whole swim team before, and it’s definitely a lot more stressful cooking large amounts of food for sixty hungry swimmers in ninety minutes than it is to cook small dishes for five judges in ninety minutes,” Tran said.
Despite the hiccups and dropouts, students had a generally good experience with the competition, and there is much anticipation for next year’s iteration of Iron Chef Pomona.