If there is one thing that food does well, it is bringing people together.
Four contestants, two staff members and two students competed in a sustainability cooking competition hosted by Bon Appetit in Adams Plaza, on Thursday afternoon, Sept 17. Within one hour, the four chefs had to create a unique dish that would to be rated by a panel of judges.
Autumn Rauchwerk, Bon Appetit’s West Coast Fellow, hosted the competition to encourage Mills faculty and students to come together to create healthy food using sustainable ingredients.
Based off the TV show “Chopped,” the contestants were required to use four ingredients in their dish: potatoes, leftover pulled pork, mushrooms and Halayang Ube (purple yam jam). Founder’s head chef Eric Boarini purposely chose these particular sustainable ingredients because the potatoes and mushrooms are low import crops that do not require a substantial amount of energy and water, pigs do not omit as many green house gases as cows and the Halayang Ube jam was from a previous catering event.
The four competitors ranged in cooking experience from never cooking before, to Chef Boarini himself. Senior
Larri Mariola was one of the competitors who had no cooking experience.
“This just made me realize how happy I am that Founders is on campus,” Mariola said. “I am not a chef, I am a musician.”
With helping staff member Sasha Brown, Mariola successfully created an omelet with salt and pepper potatoes, and a cinnamon peanut butter and ube sandwich on the side. The judges nominated her dish as “Most Surprised” out of the four, for her surprising delicious sandwich combination.
Winning “Best Overall” from the judges was housing operations manager, Phaedra Gauci’s deconstructed hash with fried potatoes and an egg on top. Growing up on the Island of Malta, Gauci explained that she and her family practiced cooking seasonal foods.
“We lived on what we couldn’t sell, like the beaten up left overs,” Gauci said. “That was the sort of food that I am used to growing and making.”
When it came to using the required ingredients, Gauci did not break a sweat coming up with a delicious spread that incorporated all four components. Her dish was praised by all the judges and students who were lucky enough to take a bite.
“The way she incorporated all the ingredients together was just magical,” judge Haley Tallent said. “There was sweetness, spiciness and everything; it was amazing.”
Despite the range of cooking experience, all four contestants created tasteful dishes that were enjoyed by the judging panel. Rauchneck was impressed with how the Mills community easily came together to practice cooking original meals with healthy ingredients, something that Bon Appetit strives for on college campuses.
“Everyone was willing to work together,” Rauchneck said. “I think the connection between the Bon Appetit team and the Mills staff is strong; that is key to sustainability.”