With its high ceilings and hardwood floors, the Union ballroom was converted into a veritable arena for Campus Dining’s second annual Iron Chef Competition, in which four teams of culinary whiz-kids put their cooking skills to the test for bragging rights and $5,000 for the charity of their choice.

Sporting white chef hats and aprons emblazoned with team names such as “Cocoa Berries,” “Blazin’ Skillets,” “The Three Twins” and “Sweet and Spicy,” the combatants assumed their places at cooking stations posted at all four sides of the room. On the tables were their weapons in their clash for kitchen supremacy: an assortment of cutting boards, knives, and other implements, including a George Foreman grill.

True to the Japanese television show and subsequent Food Network program it was inspired by and named after, the competition revolved around the use of a secret ingredient—or rather, two secret ingredients, chocolate and coconuts, which were unveiled at the start of the competition. Each team would be judged in accordance with four criteria: creativity, use of the secret ingredients, originality, and, of course, taste.

Vincent Gentile, the Director of Marketing for Campus Dining Services and a major organizer for the event, has been a part of events similar to Iron Chef on other campuses, and felt that students would enjoy voting for and “watching their favorite team compete to be the next Iron Chef on our campus.” And vote they did; 18 teams had signed up for the competition, and the online selection process generated over 500,000 votes—some teams even created Facebook pages encouraging their friends to vote for them.

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Assisted by a professional chef whose job it was to fetch ingredients and advise them over the course of the competition, each team immediately brainstormed and set to work on their respective dishes. Sweet and Spicy would whip up a breaded shrimp pasta with a butter sauce, while Blazin’ Skillets cooked up a salmon curry accompanied by mango strawberry crepes with a chocolate drizzle. Cocoa Berries, on the other hand, got to work on coconut grilled shrimp with a mango chipotle sauce, and The Three Twins accompanied their entrée, rice and chicken in a spicy Mexican sauce called mole, with a desert of fruit salad plated in a coconut shell.

At the Twins’ table, the mole’s ingredients—garlic, onions, and peppers—simmered in a small pot as coconuts, oranges, pineapples and strawberries lay on the cutting board, waiting to be chopped and diced for dessert. A large tub of Hershey’s chocolate stood on the far end of the table in preparation for its incorporation into the mole.

“It’s spicy, but the chocolate will counteract that,” said Tyler Toro, a junior business major and one of the Three Twins, of the mole.

As the 1:45 p.m. deadline approached, the competition went down to the wire. At the Cocoa Berries’ table, strawberries were being dipped into chocolate for dessert, and Sweet and Spicy picked up the pace to become the first team to plate and place their dish at the central table. Next up were the Three Twins, and third were Blazin’ Skillets.

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The six judges—three students, two campus chefs, and a staff member from the Undergraduate Admissions department—sampled each dish as the students in attendance voted on their favorite team.

“I think Sweet and Spicy will win,” said Dean Pitter, a senior computer science major. “It’s perfect: the appetizer is good, and there’s no hassle in eating it. As for the Three Twins, their appetizer is good, but eating the rice ball entrée seems a bit difficult.”

However, junior psychology major Anthony Sahagun thought the Three Twins earned his vote, citing their use of a coconut shell bowl in his explanation.

“The Three Twins got it: 50 percent of the culinary arts is presentation and creativity,” Sahagun said.

When the votes were tallied, the Three Twins—comprising twins Tyler and Christian Toro and twin Bart Piscitello—had won the competition and a $5,000 check for The Sunrise Fund, a fund established to spread awareness of and raise money to research childhood cancer.

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“We’ve all cooked our entire lives,” said Piscitello, a junior geology and earth science education member. “We figured a chance to do it for $5,000 for a good cause would be great.”

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