For the past five years, Campus Dining Services at Stony Brook University has held an annual Iron Chef Competition. This competition pairs four teams of students with Campus Dining’s lead cooks to test their culinary skills. It is similar to the Food Network’s Iron Chef America, right down to the challenge of incorporating a mystery ingredient.
The mystery entrée ingredients for Stony Brook Iron Chef were baby arugula, shrimp, exotic mushrooms and Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal. The desserts had to include bacon, puff pastry, chocolate chips and grapefruit. The teams were “Made in Brazil,” “French Toast Mafia,” “Iron Mafia” and “Team ROA.” Made in Brazil emerged victorious and donated its $5,000 winnings to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. The other three teams had also chosen to donate their winnings to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital if they had won.
Before the competition, all of the teams met with their lead cooks, who represented Roth Food Court, the SAC, the Union and West Side Dining. Louise Melillo, the lead chef at the SAC, was paired with Team Iron Mafia. She not only cheered on her own team, but put out a positive feeling of friendliness to all the teams, cheering her competitors on. Melillo loved the “organized chaos” and watching the new students who compete every year.
In the past, the teams were paired up with Stony Brook unit chefs rather than the Campus Dining Lead Cooks. Carly Shephard, the Campus Dining marketing manager, said, “This change will be a nice way for students to better know our staff and for the cooks to interact with the Stony Brook students.” The teams were notified of the available food ingredients and their campus dining staff member on April 4. To their knowledge, the judges included two Stony Brook staff members, two students and one mystery judge.
The students who attended the event circled the tables as they watched the chefs chop and stir their creations—the smells of food influenced by all spheres of the world filled the room.
As the time to prepare the dishes neared an end, the judges took their seats at the judging table, where each team presented their artfully crafted dishes side-by-side.
After the judges’ taste testing ended, the students were encouraged to try each dish to help decide their vote as well. A crowd favorite was Team ROA’s bacon ice cream in puff pastry with chocolate blueberry sauce. Team ROA pleased the crowd with its entrée, which included Cap’n Crunch breaded shrimp on a bed of mushroom risotto. Team Iron Mafia impressed taste buds with its tangy lemon squares and savory mushrooms stuffed with pilaf and covered with melted cheese. Team French Toast Mafia wowed the students with its cinnamon sticks drizzled in a fruit sauce and a touch of chocolate.
The winner of the competition was team Made in Brazil. As a team, they strove to incorporate influences from traditional Brazilian cooking, which is characteristically very flavorful. For the entrée, Made in Brazil whipped up a rice dish topped in a stroganoff of tomato paste and shrimp. For dessert, the team filled crepe-like disks with fresh fruit and had a melted chocolate sauce on the side to dip additional berries in.
Although only one team of the four that participated could win the competition, each group clearly showed a lot of talent, determination and effort. As team Made in Brazil posed with their Brazilian flag and the check that is to be donated to the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, a sense of accomplishment filled the room.