Wash U Champion Chef Competition Goes Local and Low Carbon

By Carolina Fojo, East Coast Fellow, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation

Chef David Rushing is ready for the competition to begin.

At the Second Annual North vs. South Champion Chef Competition hosted by Bon Appétit at Washington University in St. Louis last month, competitors from opposite sides of campus came out in honor of Bon Appétit’s Low Carbon Diet Day and competed in an Iron Chef-style competition with a focus on low carbon cooking. (Read more about what that entails here). Composed of BAMCO chefs and student sous chefs, each team had exactly 30 minutes to cook the most delicious, low carbon meal for a panel of expert judges, which included area chefs from Winslow’s Home and Eclipse Restaurant, as well as Ligaya Figueras of Sauce, St. Louis’ premier culinary magazine.

After two weeks of practice and preparation, the two teams arrived with their knives brandished and ready for battle.
As the countdown started, the teams got to work before a crowd of enthusiastic WashU students and faculty. Each group’s meal had a slightly different twist: The team representing the north side of campus sourced 100% of its ingredients locally, and resolved not to use sugar or oil for any of their dishes. The South Side team also focused on local, with a theme of simplicity and really letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

Quail eggs
The meal for Team North featured local quail eggs, no larger than silver dollars.

Throughout the competition, fun facts were shared about the competitors – for example, how student sous chef Joanna Perdomo (Team North) bribed her friends to attend the event by promising them each a loaf of her “Almost Famous Joanna Banana Bread”; or how student sous chef Kara Hunerson’s dream is to re-create the McDonald’s happy meal to be a healthy meal, and then serve it to Ronald McDonald himself at the top of the McD’s play palace. The emcees also discussed the relationship between food and climate change, and when it was mentioned that Bon Appétit was the first restaurant company to not only acknowledge its contribution to climate change, but to change its purchasing practices accordingly, a round of applause erupted across the whole of Tisch Commons. (See how your food choices impact climate change here!)

Judges enjoy the final product and tally up their scores.

At the end of the 30 minutes, the panel of judges were presented with black-walnut-crusted local chicken scalloppini, elderberry gastrique, ceviche made from local trout, and even truffles rolled in Missouri salted popcorn powder and local smoked pork bacon powder. (For the full menus, see below). Those of us who weren’t judges in the competition were a bit jealous, to say the least.

The North Side team were declared the victors. Congratulations to all, and check out more photos from the competition here.

Team North’s Winning Menu

First Course
Petite Bistro Salad, Missouri Spicy Mesclun, Rain Crow Ranch All Natural Berkshire Smoked Bacon, Mennonite Raised Quail Egg, Sand Hill Farms Organic Mustard, and City Seeds Organic Herb Vinaigrette.

Second Course
Troutdale Farms Trout Ceviche, Eureka Pea Shoots, Burning Kumquat Sorrel and Chives, Double Star Farms Tomato “Air,” Jeff County Popcorn Powder

Third Course
Missouri Truffle Trio (Sand Hill Farm’s Organic Sorghum, Between The River Apiary Raw Honey, and Local Mennonite Butter rolled in Missouri Salted Popcorn Powder, in Missouri Hand Foraged Black Walnut Powder, and Crispy Missouri Berkshire Smoked Pork Bacon Powder)