Iron Frank Judge Gives First-Hand Account of Culinary Competition

Students entering Frank Dining Hall on Wednesday evening were greeted by a cornucopia of produce and four teams cutting, slicing, sautéing, blending, stirring, and frying—all for ASPC Food Committee’s Iron Frank event. Just as in the hit TV show “Iron Chef,” the teams scrambled to integrate a mystery ingredient—in this case, black knight carrot—in the two most delicious, beautiful, and creative dishes they could whip up. At stake were two coveted places in Thursday’s Iron Frary championship.

The 16 students represented the crème de la crème of 5C culinary talent, having passed through the quarterfinals last Friday. Seven teams submitted an apple-based dessert cooked on their own time, and the four emerged to compete under the bright lights of Frank’s western dining space.

Team Omnomnom (Patrick Liu PO ’14, Utsav Kothari PO ’14, Elaine Chan SC ’14, and Winona Bechtle SC ’14) and Team Rhodelia Haus (Martin Wintz PO ’11, Taylor Wolf PO ’11, Amanda Ghassaei PO ’11, and Lucy Block PO ’11) came away as the finalists, as determined by Food Committee’s co-chairs Ian Gallogly PO’13 and Caroline Rubin PO’13 as well as three additional committee members, Max Grodnick PO’13, Madeline Jenks PO ‘14 and myself. It is safe to say that all of the teams destroyed my dark horse candidate, Team Frank.

“I was already impressed by the quarterfinal submissions last week,” Gallogly said. “Today’s performance just blew me away.”

Iron Frank made for a festive occasion, with Chloe Webster PO ’14 and Emma Peterson PO ’14 sharing emcee duties and calling the action. Teams were having fun while focusing on their craft.

“We’re here to win; we’re definitely not here to make friends,” said Block, echoing the reality TV meme. Rhodelia Haus in particular seemed to step up the intensity, with Wintz melting his gloves and the teammates imbibing occasional squirts of cooking oil.

“You have to taste every ingredient,” Wintz said. “It’s part of what takes to be a great chef.”

The teams seemed pleased with the black knight carrot.

“It’s creative in that it’s both visually striking and also has a common flavor and is versatile,” Brendan Gillet PO ’14. “It’s not that out there and is easy to work with.”

“We love these carrots!” added Chan.

Other ingredients available included items as diverse as rice noodles, curry paste, quinoa, and salmon. Daniel LaPook PO '14 described the variety as “a lot to work with and choose from.”

Team Disciples of Sakai accompanied their shaved asparagus, mushroom, and carrot salad with chicken splashed by a cream, mustard, and tarragon sauce and caramelized black carrots on the side. Judges loved the black carrots but thought the salad could have used a stronger dressing. Team Sugar & Spice crafted cups of bamboo rice, which were filled with a blue potato and black knight curry spiced with basil, mint, and green onion. A smoothie of carrots, tomato juice, and various berries was served on the side. The smoothie and rice cups were great ideas, but judges thought the curry could have benefit from a higher sauce to rice ratio.

Rhodelia Haus came up with a salmon-eggs benedict and a rice noodle-portobello mushroom dish. The judges appreciated their ambition but had difficulty cutting through the fried egg noodles. Onomnom impressed with their carrot curry over couscous and a sticky rice banana volcano with a carrot-berry glaze. The judges particularly enjoyed how the glaze had undertones of carrot while remaining sweet. The curry and salad were straightforward but solid.

I left Iron Frank with a full stomach and content palate, but also a sense of shame—shame that my culinary talents pale in comparison to the sixteen competitors. But having seen what is possible for college students, I now feel confident I can expand my repertoire beyond pasta marinara, quesadillas, chili, and stir-fries. Now all I have to do is get cookin'.

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