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Chop it Up

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By: Tamiracle Williams and Evy Guerra

tamiracle@mail.usf.edu

evelyng1@mail.usf.edu

Food brings people together.

Brittania Warren, the president of USFSP Cook Masters, said people love to talk about food just as much as they love to cook and eat.

The idea of Cook Masters originally began in spring 2016 with a Facebook post on the USFSP The Know It All’s Guide to Knowing It All that asked students if they would be interested in a cooking club. The post accumulated 30 likes and 15 comments and Cook Masters was born.

The initial planning started in late spring, and by the time school started in August, Cook Masters became an official club.

Cook Masters currently has approximately 100 members who attend the club’s biweekly meetings. The gatherings consist of discussions, workshops and live demonstrations.

One of the club’s most recent workshops focused on making galaxy donuts. During this workshop, students met inside of RHO and learned how to make Instagrammable donuts.

Warren said that since the creation of Cook Masters, members have received numerous opportunities to train with local chefs.  

Outside of the 100 people that signed up at Get on Board Day, not many students know about the cooking club. To get the word out about Cook Masters, the e-board decided to host an event for people to learn more about it.

Maranda Douglas, the club’s secretary, is obsessed with Food Network’s “Chopped” and dreamed of hosting  a student edition. Warren liked the idea and wanted to go all out for the event.

“Chopped” is a cooking competition on Food Network that hosts chefs of all stripes competing to win the $10,000 prize. The show features three courses and after each round a chef is chopped. Cook Masters tweaked the formula a little bit. Chopped Student Edition would feature a four-course meal and no students would be chopped from the competition.  

As the event came closer, Cook Masters helped train the competitors in different workshops so they would feel prepared.

“We wanted to make sure that all of our contestants felt comfortable, so we included in the application that people competing would get proper training,” said Warren.

Sodexo, the club’s adviser, held one of these workshops to teach the students how to properly use various knives. One workshop hosted by a local company, Savory Spice Shop focused on the use of a variety of exotic spices.

Aside from training the student chefs, Warren also had to find sponsors, judges and cooking equipment for the event.

“The process has been overwhelming, but the community has been very helpful. Ninety percent of the people we reached out to for the event said yes,” said Warren.

Four judges participated in the event, many from different Tampa Bay area restaurants.

These included Jacqueline Dilego, the executive pastry chef at William Dean Chocolate, Frank Wells, a director for St. Petersburg Culinary Center, Mike Sponaugle, the co-owner of Buya Ramen and Louis Duran, the general manager for the Reef.

On the night of Nov. 10 the judges sat on a panel looking out at the students competing, ready to critique them based on three categories: presentation, taste and creativity.

The competition kicked off with amuse-bouche, which is a French term for an extremely light portion to stimulate the palate.Warren told the three students, Colin Stanart, Hannah Hartung and Lindsey Martin, that the secret ingredients would be cheese and shrimp.

Twenty minutes later, they had all come up with different takes.

The judges offered both criticism and advice: “Good ensemble, you hit it just right,” and “Be careful with your peppers.”

Mark Lombardi-Nelson acted as the host during the Chopped competition. Nelson turned up the heat in the appetizer round by taking five minutes off of the clock, leaving contestants with just 15 minutes to create a meal featuring ramen.

Kania Davis competed in this round and judges told her that her presentation was beautiful.

Makenzie Burrows and Celina Dorie also participated.

In the entree round, competitors were told their secret ingredients were raisins and parsley. Makenzie Burrows, Brian Richter and Celina Dorie had 30 minutes to create their final products.

The variety of foods included a chicken dish and rice, honey cinnamon salmon with raisin rice and tofu with a side salad.

For the final round students had to use agave, strawberries and an array of pastry dough to create a dessert. With 20 minutes on the clock Stanart, Davis and Richter created their final dish.

Following the final tasting of the fried French toast, beignets and fried bread pudding it was time to announce the winners.

Cook Masters awarded the winners William and Sonoma gift baskets, a William Dean’s Chocolate gift box and a student showcase in the Reef.

Lindsey Martin won the amuse-bouche round, Brian Richter won the dessert and Celina Dorie won both the appetizer and entree rounds.

Dorie felt ecstatic to have won two of the four categories.

“Before the judging I thought I did terrible, I thought I burned a few things,” she said. “I’m astounded.”

Dorie has not been a longtime chef.

“I’m just my grandma’s taste tester in the kitchen, she says I’m a bad cook,” she said.

Warren says that the huge turnout surprised her.

“I think it went fantastic, I’m so happy so many students came out,” she said.

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