By Carolina Fojo, East Coast Fellow, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation
“I love a good competition!”
With these words, Cristin Ashmankas entered herself into a Bon Appétit Sustainable Cooking Challenge at Lesley University, where she is an assistant professor in the earth science, natural sciences, and mathematics department. Cristin grew up in a family of great cooks and says she is known among her friends (her “test subjects”) for her culinary experiments and what has become known as “Cristin’s secret ingredient.”
The day of the event, Cristin arrived wearing a cupcake-dappled apron and a big grin.
Her competitor was Diego Mejia, a Bon Appétit cook at Lesley University. Born in México, Diego spent most of his childhood eating his mother’s savory dishes of tortillas and beans, tomatillo and mole sauces. After arriving in the U.S., he started working for Bon Appétit as a dishwasher, and has steadily moved his way up the ladder to becoming a full-fledged cook. This was his second time representing Bon Appétit in a cooking competition.
As with every Bon Appétit Sustainable Cooking Challenge, the student audience chooses the contestants' ingredients from a list of locally grown, planet-friendly items. The two Lesley contenders were challenged to work with apples, potatoes, rosemary, spring onions, eggs, and chicken. (The students really liked their protein!)
As the clock ticked over to 5:30pm, the contestants got to work. They had a mere 30 minutes to design and create a meal using the selected ingredients. When the half hour was up, both contestants put their knives down, and three student judges had to decide between Ashmankas’ apple-chicken salad drizzled in a cinnamon vinaigrette and Mejia’s chicken steeped in Hollandaise. And the winner was… drumroll, please…Bon Appétit cook Diego Mejia!
“I got beat out by Hollandaise!” lamented Cristin. Her apple-chicken salad was still quite delicious — I loved the use of her “secret ingredient”, cinnamon! — and given Cristin's healthy sense of competition, this blogger would give her good odds for the likely rematch next year.
See photos from the competition here!