By Marina Liao
Four teams, seven mystery ingredients and an hour into the competition, the smell of candied bacon and puff pastries filled the Union Ballroom. It was the 4th annual Iron Chef competition at Stony Brook University, where students competed for a prize of $5,000 to be donated to a charity of their choice.
“I wouldn’t be here if the money wasn’t for a charity,” said Priya Dadd, who volunteered last-minute to stand in as a replacement for a missing member of Team Soyer, one of the competing teams. “I have two nephews who suffer from medical conditions and this money could help our charity [the Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital].”
Team Soyer, Bacon Strips, Victors of Your Heart and Instagram’s Finest entered the competition after successfully gathering enough votes via online polls.
This year, some of the secret ingredients were chicken thighs, grapefruit, bacon and exotic mushrooms the size of contestant’s palms and the dishes were judged on appearance, originality, taste and use of ingredients.
“I love to see how creative the kids can get and the team work within groups to bring the ideas to reality,” Jeffrey Krakoff, Director of Dining at the Student Activities Center (SAC) and second-time judge said.
On one side of the room, Team Bacon Strips were prepared with recipe ideas they could use. Christopher Lee, a senior and mechanical engineering major, said their team found flexible meals that could be modified for the cook off.
“This competition was on my senior to-do list,” Lee said.
Meanwhile, Victors of Your Heart were assembling stuffed tomatoes for their entree and Team Soyer was experimenting with coating bacon in brown sugar.
“I was the first one to volunteer to be a chef leader for a team. I love this. It’s a challenge, ” Romel Velasquez, the lead chef of Instagram’s Finest and a Production Chef at the SAC, said.
As time ran out, all four teams placed their dishes before the panel of six judges. The audience also had the chance to vote for their favorite teams through paper ballots.
This year’s first place winner was Instagram’s Finest—they received $5,000 for their charity, The Sunrise Fund,which supports research and funds for childhood cancer.
“It felt great to win. Last year, my team did a really good job and it stung a bit to find out that we didn’t win,” Albert Hei, an Instagram’s Finest member, said. “So this year, I wanted the title so bad that winning it in the end was just an amazing feeling.”
Their main dish featured deep-fried spicy chicken wantons with a side of fried rice and cilantro infused grapefruit dip. Their dessert was a puff pastry filled with cream cheese and candied bacon topped with chocolate drizzle.
“I felt a little nervous when I saw one of the (other) group’s presentations,” Jonathan John, a member of Instagram’s Finest said. “But I knew that we made food that looked and tasted good so I had confidence in that.”