Ready, Set, Cook: Meet JWU’s Newest Iron Chefs

Meet JWU’s newest Iron Chefs: Cooking Asia’s Mystery Basket competition gives student teams just 60 minutes to cook a dish from scratch using one mystery protein and all their culinary creativity.

Hone Skills, Teamwork + Creativity
The student club holds these culinary battle royales once a term, using fresh ingredients that have been donated by other classes. (“We keep this as green as possible,” says club vice president Joy Nuarin.)

Freshmen and seniors compete side by side in teams of two — and, like “Top Chef”’s Restaurant Wars, only one team is crowned champion.

Culinary students love the competition because it’s a test of skills, stamina and teamwork — and the growing crowd of onlookers love it because it’s like watching “Chopped” in real time. (The competition is also streamed live.)

Photo Gallery: Cooking Asia Competition PVD 480x270

Once the countdown clock starts, the teams rush to grab their ingredients and get to work.

The Clock Is Ticking
No-one knows their proteins ahead of time, forcing teams to think on their feet. And it wouldn’t be a Cooking Asia competition without challenging ingredients like spicy chicken feet and preserved duck eggs.

Chefs Alonzo Villarreal, Mike Makuch, Neath Pal and Branden Lewis (also the club’s advisor) judge teams on their ability to manage their time, stay organized and create great food.

The judges’ critiques are thoughtful but constructive: “I like your risk-taking, but this plate had an imbalance of direction.” “Very creative potato cuts — like Frank Lloyd Wright!”

Becoming Better Culinary Competitors
Geoffrey Lanez, who competed with Jenny McClure, sees competitions like this as a great way to stay creative and keep skills sharp: “We work hard but it’s really fun.”

Lanez won last year’s San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Northeast Regionals and is using tonight’s contest to get in fighting shape for the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Regionals in March.

First place goes to Geoffrey and Jenny’s venison with arancini, with second place to Tim Downey and Andrew Montesano’s smoked pork with crab and blanched snow peas.

The next Cooking Asia competition takes place in April, with a final round on May 2. Keep up with Cooking Asia on Facebook.

Ready to compete? Build your culinary skills at our Providence Campus.