Campus Dining Services hosted its fourth annual Tiger Chef Challenge competition on Wednesday, April 3, featuring students from each of the six undergraduate residential colleges.
Each group raced against the 45-minute timer to prepare a dish containing the key ingredient for this year’s competition: jackfruit. After one round of cooking by each team, judging took place. All dishes were judged based on three primary characteristics: presentation, composition, and taste.
“Bloomburgers with Fries” represented Butler College and was the winner of this year’s competition, taking over the title from last year’s winner, Mathey College’s “Mojo Jojo.” The Butler College team was headed by Chef Christeen Griffiths.
From mimicking the time pressure to create a full meal from scratch to requiring that dishes have a mystery ingredient, the Tiger Chef Challenge itself took a lot of inspiration from the popular show “Iron Chef.”
Preparation for the cook-off began months before the event itself, according to Assistant Vice President for University Services Smitha Haneef, who served as an organizer and judge.
Haneef has run and championed the event since the first year it took place and was largely responsible for its creation, in collaboration with Campus Dining staff.
“About four years back when we started thinking about Campus Dining and our vision for the future of dining, there were four key elements we spoke about,” Haneef said. “One was about health and wellbeing. The second one was about sustainability and food systems. Third one was about diversity and inclusion …The fourth was about community engagement.”
According to Haneef, the Tiger Chef Challenge presented itself as an opportunity for the University to reach out to the wider campus community by celebrating multiculturalism and food diversity.
“Tiger Chef [has] now become this key event where we could bring together our entire community and celebrate … sustainability and diversity,” she said.
Each group of four students also practiced with chefs from their own residential colleges.
“There was quite a bit of behind-the-scenes work in both the Wilcox kitchen and Scully Co-op to make sure our recipes could be completed deliciously in a timely manner,” stated Selina Pi ’19, a member of the Butler College team. “I've also learned much about cooking techniques, knife skills, and smoothie-making. The food prep process was lengthy but everything came together just in time.”
In addition to the competition, Campus Dining hosted a food expo featuring local businesses and University partners. Students had the opportunity to try a variety of sample food dishes.
“The fruits were a great complement to the spring weather,” said Muhammad Umar ’22, describing his experience at the expo.
By bringing in local vendors from a range of culinary backgrounds, the University hoped to increase community outreach and appreciation for its own curricular program, according to Haneef.
Professor of English Anne Cheng also served as a judge and is heavily involved with culinary studies on campus. She described her and the University’s particular interest with the Tiger Chef Challenge.
“The idea behind this is getting the colleges and students involved in cooking together and understanding cooking as a collaborative project,” she said.
The event was broadcasted on Facebook Live and will be available to watch in the coming weeks.