RHA’s Iron Chef competition challenges chefs’ creativity with 'secret ingredient'

Teams from Rollins, Pavilion, Plaza 900 and the MU Student Center created dishes for expert critique.

The Residence Halls Association, in collaboration with Campus Dining Services, hosted an Iron Chef competition in the MU Student Center on Wednesday night. The competition was one of the many events occurring during RHA Week, a yearly celebration of the upcoming RHA presidential elections.

RHA began its special week with a Presidential Candidate Debate on Sunday. On Monday during the bimonthly Congress meeting, the representatives held a Dashboard Kickoff event. Dashboard is a competition between nine residence halls to see which is the most sustainable and energy-efficient. Tuesday was RHA Bingo Night, where participants won prizes such as T-shirts, coffee mugs, hats, candy and an e-reader.

According to the RHA Week Facebook event page, the Iron Chef challenge “is a competition that tests student culinary skills and includes a secret ingredient.”

CDS revealed a clue about the Iron Chef “secret ingredient” over Twitter on Tuesday: “Hint: it's found all over the world and can be served sweet or bitter.”

The secret ingredient revealed Wednesday was coffee. Representatives from The Roasterie came to the competition and provided free cups of coffee to attendees. CDS employees distributed food samples that used coffee in unique ways. Brownies, pork loin and sliders were all served with a coffee-infused twist. Attendees even received a coupon for a free coffee from Infusion.

The judges selected the winning dishes based on flavor, presentation and creativity in use of the secret ingredient.

The four teams, Rollins’ “High Rollers,” Pavilion at Dobbs’ “Bite to Excite,” Plaza 900’s “Hungry Hungry Hippos” and MU Student Center’s “Contents May Be Hot” had an hour to create two or three dishes to present to the judges.

With two minutes left, each team was down to the wire, as only one team had submitted one of its two dishes to the judges. The other teams were down to seconds to prepare their dishes and present them to the judges. The last submission made it to the judging table with five seconds to spare.

The judging panel consisted of Residential Life Director Frankie Minor, Dr. Leslie Jett, chef instructor from MU’s hospitality management program, and Paul Massard, The Roasterie’s “bean hunter,” who is in charge of finding the perfect coffee beans for the company to use in its products.

After careful deliberation from the judges, the three decided “Contents May Be Hot” was the best contender. Led by sous chef Jeremy Elmore, the team served coffee-encrusted beef sirloin with coffee bordelaise sauce, stuffed portobello mushroom with goat cheese, coffee-brined fried chicken with coffee caramelized onion polenta and fresh root salad with coffee vinaigrette. This was the team’s third consecutive win.

“There was no bad food served tonight,” Minor said. The judges explained it was a very difficult decision and it was hard to reach an agreement.

On Thursday, anyone living in a residence hall will be able to cast their vote online for next year’s RHA president and President. The candidates are Chris Rucker and Caleb Krenning, Zack Folk and Lindsay Weber, and Gage Caszatt and Lydia Harvengt. To get voters in the political spirit, MUTV will play “The Ides of March” on Thursday night.

The following evening is the RHA Ball, held in the Mark Twain Ballroom in Memorial Union. The ball will feature finger foods and recognition of each hall for their accomplishments this year. The winner of the presidential election will be announced at the end of the night.

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