UT students to show their cooking chopsWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Five teams will spar to see who can create the best meal using a surprise ingredient in the inaugural University of Toledo “Iron Chef” competition on March 20.
“It’s going to be really, really fun,” said Jennifer Rockwood, director of the College of Innovative Learning’s First Year Experience, which is one of the programs sponsoring the event. The competition is based on the reality show “Iron Chef.”
Each UT team is made up of a faculty adviser, a residence hall chef and three students. The students are from UT’s Living Learning Communities, which allow students with the same interests to live in residence halls together. The participating students are slated to go through a training class for safety purposes.
Prizes include a trophy and the winning dish will be included in UT’s regular food services. There will be a people’s choice winner in addition to the judges’ selection.
Rockwood said many of UT’s chefs, who will partner with the teams, went to acclaimed culinary schools. She added, “They really are trying to up the ante on the food you get when you’re away from home.”
She also said, “I am definitely a fan of cooking shows and I just thought it would be one more way to interact with the students. It’s another way to get them out of the classroom and into some fun stuff and yet these kids are going to have to get their game face on.”
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful learning opportunity for our students to showcase what skills they have in the kitchen, but also to practice some professional skills such as speaking in public,” said Interim Dean of Students Michele Martinez, also one of the competition’s judges.
Other judges include Chef Rob Campbell from Revolution Grille, Toledo Free Press Food Columnist Amy Campbell, LaScola Chef Moussa Salloukh, UT Student Government President Paulette Bongratz, Chef Labib Hajar from The Beirut, Blade Food Editor Dan Neman, 101.5 The River host Mary Beth Zolik, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and Maumee Fire Department Captain Jim Dusseau.
Amy Campbell said she’s excited and “star-struck” about meeting the other judges.
“I watch ‘Iron Chef’ and I’ve always liked the play-by-play between the judges so I think that’ll be fun,” she said.
“It’s very interesting how food and cooking have become a spectator sport in this case.”
At the firehouse, Dusseau rotates cooking shifts with fellow firefighters, who he said favor smoked meats. However, he said, “I’m a little scared about this whole ordeal because there are some pro chefs that are going to be in it.
“I’m not a culinary expert by any means. I just like to cook and eat,” he said, adding that as far as the secret ingredient goes, he’d try almost anything so long as it’s not tripe.
The competition starts at 4 p.m. March 20 at the Ottawa East Dining Hall at UT’s main campus. The event is open to the public.