“Top Chef” Chops Up the Competition



On television, Bravo’s Top Chef is probably one of my favorite shows. Not surprisingly, I was thrilled to be assigned coverage of Colgate Activities Board’s (CAB) copy of the show, “Top Chef at Colgate”! In fact, I came extremely close to actually participating in the food-making challenges myself. This year’s competition, the second one thus far, was organized entirely by two CAB executive members, senior Alex Levine (deceptively wearing a ‘Padma’ nametag) and junior Daniela Koci.

Last year, the first CAB “Top Chef” met with great success, encouraging nearly 20 teams to come out and demonstrate their cooking talent–or to just mess around and make great tasting concoctions. This year, 16 teams showed up – that’s 32 people, or two partners to a team–to compete against each other for a $400 Grand Prize, with $200 going to each of the second place winners and $100 going to each of the third and fourth place teams.

Each group was required to pay a $10 entry fee, constituting a donation to the local Hamilton Food Cupboard. The competition is designed so that every two-person group gets a chance to participate in the first “quick-fire” round and then four finalist groups are chosen for the second and determining round. In the second round, the groups are taken to Grand Union to buy some food and back to a kitchen to cook off. With four prizes, each group that made it past the first round was able to score a little money from the CAB coffers. In terms of what went into the preparation, $400 was spent on all the food in the preliminary quick-fire and additionally $100 per group that made it to round two. Each plate was judged by four CAB judges in order to make the win on three categories–deliciousness, creativity/cooking skill and presentation of the plate.

The actual competition, at least for the first round, was a very exciting and fast-paced spectator event. The aim of round one was to create a delicious dessert in a time frame of 20 minutes. There were several long rows of tables set up in the O’Conner Campus Center (Coop) where each two-person group could have a workspace, plastic utensils and one microwave with which to complete their dessert. At the start of the round, each member massed towards a table laden with plastic contained goods–that is, packaged cookies and dessert shells, marshmallows, peanut butter, etc. As I walked up and down among the competitors, there were many interesting plates, such as little tarts filled with melted marshmallow and chocolate, and even a dessert ‘cheeseburger,’ complete with pound cake French fries and strawberry jam ketchup.

After the four winners of the preliminary round were chosen, they were each taken to the “judges table” to “draw knives” (plastic Coop knives in this case) to determine what sort of course they would be cooking in the determining round. The alternatives were as follows: pork, chicken, seafood or beef. Once each team had chosen randomly, they were all taken to Grand Union, and given a stipend of $100 to shop for their respective proteins and additive ingredients to make the best and most creative dish possible. Then, they were taken back to Colgate to cook a Top Chef meal at either the Alana Cultural Center kitchen or the kitchen inside Colgate’s Memorial Chapel.

No matter where the dishes were coming from, I wish I had been able to judge the food that came out in the last round! The CAB Top Chef at Colgate event was a success both in terms of charity and delicious looking food.