Weber Dining to host culinary competition

Aspiring chefs and mobile kitchens will transform the Shepherd Union atrium into a culinary competition battleground called “Meal Madness” on Nov. 20.

From 11:30 to 1:30 p.m., four teams will compete to become the campus champions in the event put on by Weber Dining.

Students and faculty will compete in an "Iron Chef" competition on Nov. 20. (Tribune News Service)
Weber State students and faculty will compete in an “Iron Chef”-type competition on Nov. 20. The competition will be called “Meal Madness” and will be hosted in the Shepherd Union atrium.(Source: Tribune News Service)

Modeled after the hit TV show “Iron Chef,” the competition will give each participating team 45 minutes to create an appetizer, entrée and dessert.

“We want to bring out a culinary pride and just bring satisfaction to our customers at Sodexo,” said Nick Phinney, the Sodexo Marketing Intern and coordinator of the event.

Two teams of students and two teams representing WSU departments will compete against each other. Each team has a maximum of two people.

The competing teams were chosen from a previous application process.

Each team will be paired with a Sodexo chef, who can act as a consultant for the participants by answering questions, giving suggestions and supervising their food preparation.

“Our chefs all come from different backgrounds,” Phinney said. “Some are sous chefs and one is a catering chef, so we will have a really diverse group. I’m excited to see how they help the teams.”

In a similar fashion to other TV cooking competitions, right before the competition each team will be presented with a basket of mystery ingredients, which they must incorporate into their dishes.

Pantry items and general cooking ingredients will be set up on a table across from the competitors.

“It will be a lot of fun because teams will have to run to the other side of the atrium to get their food,” Phinney said.  “So you still get that feeling where you have to run and get your ingredients, which gets your blood pumping and your adrenaline going.”

A judging panel will consist of WSU Student Body President Joe Favero, Sodexo General Manager Keith Murray and Sodexo Executive Chef Randall Groves.

The judges will weigh each dish based on aspects like creativity, flavor, presentation and more.  After deliberation, they will come up with a total score for each dish.

One department team and one student team will be chosen for a total of two winning teams.

Apart from earning the title of the Campus Culinary Champion, each winning individual will be given $25 in dining money that can be used anywhere on campus.

This is the first Meal Madness competition at WSU, but Phinney says he thinks it has the potential to become an annual event.

Jessica Alford, the Sodexo Director of Operations, says she thinks the event will be a success.

“Students can really surprise you with their culinary skills,” Alford said. “So I’m looking forward to seeing their creativity.”

Spectators can drop by between classes or they can stay to witness the action of the entire event.

“If you like watching cooking tournaments on TV, this is the perfect event,” said Tiffany Dubbelman, the Sodexo Sustainability and Marketing Specialist.  “It’s something new, something fun and something you don’t have to go out of your way to enjoy.”