UMass holds Iron Chef competition

By Kate Leddy

The University of Massachusetts Campus Center auditorium was filled with alumni, students and faculty on Saturday afternoon, all of whom were eager to watch the second annual Iron Chef Competition.

Jessica Chaiken/ Collegian

The event, which is modeled after the popular show “Iron Chef America,” was a part of the Homecoming festivities that will be taking place this week. Kevin Brauch, the commentator for “Iron Chef America,” emceed the competition, which promoted the use of regional sustainable foods of New England.

Three teams comprised of UMass faculty members and dining staff, all new competitors to the event, took on the challenge to create a medal-worthy meal in just 30 minutes using the provided ingredients. Team one was comprised of Elizabeth Chilton, director of the Center for Heritage and Culture in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and her partner Matthia Accurso, a catering chef for UMass dining.

Eric Decker, director of the Industrial Strategic Research Alliance program and head of the food science department in the College of Natural Sciences, competed with his partner chef Taylor Whittemore from Berkshire Dining Common on team two.

Team three included Dr. Pierre Rouzier, the primary care physician at the University Health Services and team physician for UMass Athletics. Alongside him was Anthony Jung, head chef at Hampshire Dining Common.

The teams’ creations were judged on four categories that totaled to 160 points: presentation, creativity, taste and utilization of the ingredients. They were provided with a variety of proteins such as tofu, pork, fish and poultry as well as beans and legumes. Much of the food was local, such as apples from the UMass orchard and maple syrup from the Hadley Sugar Shack. The panel of judges included three faculty members, Jenafer Andren, Ken Toong and Sid Ferreira, as well as the President of the Student Government Association, Zac Broughton.

Spectators were able to enjoy a variety of appetizers and beverages provided by the events’ sponsors and UMass Dining, as Garett DiStefano, director of Residential Dining Services, welcomed everyone to the competition.

“The turnout is phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve filled all 120 seats and more people continue to pour in.”

The clock began and competitors burst into a flurry of action; chopping, peeling and marinating as the audience followed their movements projected on a large screen behind them. For the next half hour, DiStefano and Brauch offered commentary on the dish preparations and spoke with the judges.

“I’m excited to see what they make” said Broughton. “I’m a college student, so this could easily be the healthiest meal I’ve eaten in a while.”

Indeed, each dish provided a healthy balance of proteins and vegetables paired with flavorful sauces and seasoning. Chilton, who has celiac disease, created an entirely gluten free dish of spicy peanut tofu with jasmine rice, stir fried chickpeas and vegetables. She appeared focused and determined as she composed the meal and added a light dusting of chili powder around the plate for added aesthetic effect.

“I think it went well,” she said when time ran out. “It looks pretty at least!”

Chilton and Accurso’s dish was the first to be tasted and received much approval.

Decker and Whittemore’s dish was prosciutto wrapped salmon with green goddess dressing, bistro bean puree and roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic pine nuts. Rouzier and Jung created a dish of spiced pork tenderloin with pomegranate cranberry chutney, apple Brussels sprout slaw and sweet potato hash. Each dish received excellent praise, and the judges appeared torn over choosing what scores to give each team.

“It’s difficult when they’ve all created such different and unique flavors,” said Andren.

After some deliberation, the results were in. With 136 points, the winners of the second annual Iron Chef Competition were team three, Rouzier and Jung. Team two received second place with just one point less and team one came in third with 127 points.

While everyone lined up to taste some of the dishes, the competitors congratulated one another and discussed the event with broad grins on their faces.

“I think I hurt my neck from laughing all day,” said Rouzier.

The positive atmosphere appeared to be contagious as the crowd mingled and enjoyed signature drinks concocted by Kevin Brauch.

“I sort of have a crush on this place,” Brauch said as he filled glasses. “I think that everyone is a foodie, and UMass Dining is the best example of really appreciating great food.” Those enjoying their nutritious plates of tofu, pork and salmon nodded vigorously in agreement.

Kate Leddy can be reached at [email protected]