Kitchen Stadium: Random Hall, Destiny (and Foo) lounge/kitchens.

Master Chefs in competition: Shanying, Mike, Nick, and Patrick.

Secret ingredients: Ginger and Potato

I would say the cook-off was a great success! The judges announced the “secret” ingredients 2 days in advance, and the chefs planned 3 (or in Mike’s case, 5) dishes.  Since I unfortunately did not bring a camera, I have no mouth-watering, enticing pictures to share. I can assure you however that the dinner feast was spectacular. The judges never ended up announcing a winner, though it’s rather safe to say that Mike stole the show with his scallops with ginger-miso-grapefruit and hand-made ginger ice cream. I was overly ambitious and tried to make dumplings with potato wrappers, but I got really tired about two hours before the judging, and before I had started my other two dishes. Plus, after Mike and I moved from our apartment (it’s too small to host a dinner competition involving 4 chefs and 5 judges) to Random Hall, I became really disoriented and out of my element. The change in scenery totally screwed me over, so I lost all patience for cooking, stopped following the recipes and randomly added ingredients while pouting. I ended up with overcooked soba that lacked flavor because I forgot to add chili sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and scallions (you know, the stuff that would make the dish taste like something other than soy sauce), braised pork-belly that wasn’t tender enough, and dumplings without dipping sauce.

But you know what? Once we sat down and I stopped sulking and started hanging out with people, I had a great time again. It didn’t matter that there were flaws with my dish. People were hungry and we were all just having fun together. After dinner, everyone took complimenting chefs and offering some constructive feedback. Then we all ate ice cream, drank some ginger-lemonade-vodka spritzer and shared inappropriate stories. While I don’t miss the kitchens in undergraduate dorms, I do miss living with and hanging out with a bunch of your friends. So at the end of the day, it was a great event, and I look forward to episode 2.

If anyone else is interested in hosting a similar competition, there are only two things I would change. First I would suggest having two teams of chefs instead of individual chefs competing. It would greatly bring down the stress level. Secondly, I would suggest eating each chef’s menu on its own. We had 12 different dishes on the table that we all tried to pile onto our plates. Flavors overlapped, and the lighter more subtle dishes were overpowered by the strong, bold ones. Having only two teams instead of four chefs will also help with that part. Aside from that, just keep in mind it’s all in good fun!

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