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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis chefs sharpen their knives (and skills) in JSA competition

Published: March 20, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

If you were in Village B from 6-8pm this past Saturday, you may have noticed a group of students working furiously with sharp knives at one of the second floor kitchens. They were actually participating in the Japanese Student Association’s 2nd annual Iron Chef competition. This year, two teams went head-to-head in a battle for culinary glory and the chance to win a prize for their efforts.

Each team had one hour to cook a dish containing the secret ingredient. Final dishes were tasted and rated by a panel of judges that included Professors Fraleigh Sensei and Nakano Sensei, as well as ICC leaders Kevin Yim and Vrinda Shukla.

Last year’s winners, Team BC3 (Brandeis Chinese Club), confidently returned with a group of entirely new members. Their challenger, Team BFC (Brandeis Football Club), quickly became Team Charlie when that single member discovered that his teammates couldn’t make it. Despite this handicap, Team Charlie decided to continue competing.

All participants, judges, JSA e-board members and spectators gathered to watch the opening ceremonies. Acting as the chairman of this competition, JSA co-president Kenta Yamamoto briefly explained the rules, and then unveiled the secret ingredient: avocados. The teams were sent to work promptly after he bit into a yellow bell pepper, signaling the start of the competition.

Though on a tighter budget, this exciting, free event offered a far more authentic experience than the Student Events-run Iron Chef competition. Snacks and refreshments were provided for interested spectators, while a Skype video feed kept us all updated on the competitors’ progress.

After an hour of careful preparation, the two teams were ready to unveil their dishes. Team Charlie went first, presenting a 5-layer dip with tortilla chips. Along with the secret ingredient, the dip contained refried beans, cheddar cheese, onions, and sour cream. The judges concluded that although his presentation could have been better, the avocado flavor was strong and complimented the other ingredients. Team BC3 presented an original dish they called Heavenly fried rice, which was served in a hollowed-out pineapple. The rice contained cashews, raisins, pineapple, mashed avocado, and various seasonings, the most prominent of which was curry. Judges agreed that the dish was very tasty, but were unable to detect the avocado flavor.

After ten minutes of deliberation, the judges delivered their verdict. The final scores were very close, but in the end, the Heavenly fried rice won over the judges with its presentation. Team BC3 was proclaimed the winning team for the second consecutive year. Each member received a $10 gift certificate to a Japanese restaurant in Porter Square.

As an observer, I commend Team Charlie for forging on alone. Ultimately, both dishes were quite delicious and quickly disappeared during the post-judging clean-up.