MARSHALL - The competition was heating up in the Culinology kitchen at Southwest Minnesota State University this week, as teams battled to stay alive in the semifinal rounds of the 2012 Clapper Iron Chef contest.
The third annual event is sponsored by the Clapper residence hall on campus, where many of the SMSU Culinology students currently reside.
Each team consists of three students who are either majoring in Culinology or Hospitality; they're required to prepare an appetizer, entree and dessert in just over an hour's time.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Ryan Crossland, left, chops up plums as teammate Tyler Eekhoff stirs up a sauce while cooking in the 2012 Clapper Iron Chef competition Thursday at Southwest Minnesota State University. Below: Opposing team competitor Hannah Jacobsen takes puff pastry appetizers to the judges.
"We have two teams competing (Thursday) and three on (Friday)," said event organizer Christy Stainer, who is also the resident advisor of Clapper. "The two winning teams from this week will compete in the finals next week."
While the final competition involves a mystery ingredient, the semifinal rounds are based on skill.
"There are three judges who score the food according to texture, appearance, taste and how well the three courses flowed," Stainer said.
The kitchen clash on Thursday was between Team 1 - Kendall Erickson, Hannah Jacobsen and Max Fluck - and Team 2 - Mitch Grittman, Ryan Crossland and Tyler Eekhoff.
"We're hoping to win," Fluck said. "Is there any other reason to compete?"
Though with different teammates, Fluck took second place in the Clapper Iron Chef competition last year. So far, he said, everything had gone pretty smoothly.
"We made a chicken alfredo with homemade alfredo sauce, with Vietnamese curry powder, paprika and old bay seasoning thrown in there for color," Fluck said. "Our dessert is a chocolate vanilla chocolate mousse. The appetizer is a puff pastry, with cranberries and onions that were sauted together, and then crushed pistachios on top."
Team 2 created ground pork pot-stickers for its appetizer round.
"It had Napa cabbage, shallots and scallions in hit," Crossland said. "We served it with a Ponzu sauce and oyster sauce. I was going to make a plum sauce, but we ran out of time."
Other than the plum sauce not getting on the plate, everything else went smoothly, Crossland said. For the main course, the team made Atlantic salmon with an orange ginger sauce reduction and black sesame seeds over the top.
"For main course, I did a spiced rice, with turmeric, garlic, ginger and cilantro," he said. "We also did a slaw, Daikon radish, carrots, spring rolls and we did a sesame oil vinaigrette. And then for dessert, we did a jasmine tea ice cream with a cream cheese chocolate wonton on the side."
Paige Geving, Clapper program assistant, was in charge of sanitation.
"The teams can get docked points for the contest," she said. "They have a sanitation score out of 20 points. That will be added to the judges score, which is out of 30, for a total of 50 points."
While waiting for the official judges to finish scoring the rounds, student observers had the opportunity to sample some of the food.
"I thought the chicken alfredo was delicious," said Ruby Knopps, SMSU freshman. "The best part was the sauce. I'm just observing this year, but I might do the competition next year."
In the end, though, Team 2 edged out its competitor for the victory, and moved on to the finals on Feb. 10. In addition to the excitement of having a mystery ingredient revealed only 24 hours beforehand, the finals, held from 6:45-7:45 p.m., will also be televised.
"It'll be broadcast to the Marshall TV station," said Culinology senior Ross Kuchta. "I'll be the emcee for the final competition. It's usually pretty fast-paced and there are a lot of people yelling. It's a lot of fun, and there's some good food made."