Stony Brook University students were offered a lunch packed with heat and Caribbean flare on the afternoon of April 22.
The Seawolves Food Show hosted the Caribbean Cook-Off in the Student Activities Center this past Wednesday, allowing attendees to taste student-made Caribbean dishes for $5 a person.
The goal of the event was to broaden the diversity of food available on campus, which is why the Seawolves Food Show collaborated with the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), the Caribbean Student Organization (CSO), the Faculty Student Association (FSA), Campus Dining Services and the student team “City Soul,” according to Kareema Charles, the event organizer.
Hungry guests entered SAC Ballroom A around noon to the rich smell of Caribbean spices and proceeded to the tables to pick from entrees and desserts.
The competitors, City Soul, The Caribbean Student Organization and The Latin American Student Organization, were comprised of three students and a Campus Dining chef. Each team prepared an entree and a dessert to be judged by the crowd.
What was on the menu?
City Soul served a crowd favorite: rasta pasta with zesty jerk chicken and a side of soulful corn bread, along with red velvet cake for dessert.
The Caribbean Student Organization (CSO) prepared oxtail with rice, peas and a lemon sponge cake topped with strawberry for dessert.
The Latin American Student Organization (LASO) team and their chef, John Bell, lead cook at Roth Market Fresh, cooked up some flavorful Spanish paella along with a melt-in-your-mouth flan for dessert.
“My favorite dish was definitely City Soul’s rasta pasta and jerk chicken. The chicken was really soft and still juicy,” Joshua Dickie, a junior physics major, said.
City Soul’s student chefs, Kalin Sims and Randy Ferguson, wanted to bring a New York City favorite to Stony Brook with an added hint of Southern comfort food.
“We’re all from New York, so we wanted to bring something to SBU that NYC is famous for. Footprints Cafe is a restaurant in Brooklyn, it’s very popular and everyone knows about it and rasta pasta is their biggest dish, that’s their key dish,” Sims, a senior sociology major and international studies minor, said. The team wanted to bring that chicken to campus.
“We’re making cornbread to add some southern soulfulness,” she added.
Sims and Ferguson are no strangers to caribbean cooking. Sims says that she “chef’s it up in her house all the time” and she makes a lot of Japanese and Southern food. Randy Ferguson learned how to cook with Caribbean flare from his Jamaican mother.
Going off of what Sims had to say about their dish, Ferguson explained a deeper reason behind their participation in the competition: they were asked if they wanted to be apart of the Caribbean Cook-Off by Charles.
“We thought this might be a change for Stony Brook, especially for the black and latino community,” Ferguson said. “This could be a stepping stone for us to say we’re here, we do exist, we’re not just a statistic. This is our voice on the campus saying, ‘hey we want our food.’”
The Caribbean Student Organization and their campus dining chef, Elvis Dilone, made an oxtail dish. Dilone has been a chef at Roth for five years and is no stranger to Caribbean cooking either. The group came up with its entree and dessert dishes together.
“I’m Caribbean myself, I’m Dominican, so I love caribbean food and cooking it,” Dilone said.
Students moved from table to table savoring each dish they tried. City Soul asked the crowd if the jerk chicken made their mouths water and received cheers as a response.
“I came today because I saw a little bit of a different variety with the Caribbean food,” Felipe Farfan, a junior health science major, said.
Farfan was not the only one glad to see a new style of cooking at SBU.
“The Caribbean food is different and that’s why I came down today. I usually go to the SAC but it’s never different there,” Sucorah Berry, a freshman health science major said.
Danni Deng, a freshman mathematics major agreed, stating that she saw this as an activity on the calendar and came down to the event to try new food.
Team LASO’s chefs were a little different than the rest. Chef John Bell, lead chef at Roth Market Fresh, has been cooking since age 15 or 16, attended the Culinary Institute of America and worked at a number of places before ending up at Stony Brook. Unlike the other competitors, Caribbean is not one of Bell’s favorites.
“I don’t cook Caribbean very often. It’s kind of hard because it can get very spicy very fast, it’s not one of my favorite cuisines,but I do like it,” he said. The students on his team chose the recipes for the flavorful Spanish paella and sweet flan.
“The reason why we chose paella was because it’s from Spain and although we are the Latin American Student Organization, we wanted to go further out than the Caribbean and Latin America.,” Sudley Perez, a senior health science major and chef for the LASO team said. “Also, a lot of the foods in the Caribbean are the same as those in latin america so we decided to expand.”
After tasting each teams recipes, the students casted their votes for their favorite dishes.
Team City Soul came out on top, making their dish of rasta pasta and jerk chicken with a side of cornbread available for purchase around campus. They also received a $500 award to donate to an on-campus charity. The team chose to support The Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.
The winning dish will be featured at three dining locations on campus, according to Charles. “Campus Dining is working out the final details, but it’s definitely going to be in West Side Dining. The other two locations most likely will be the SAC and Union,” she said.
Correction: April 26, 2015
An earlier version of the article misspelled the name of a student. The student’s name is Felipe Farfan, not Farfam.