Top Chef Hamilton



In the reality television show Top Chef, where contestants compete against each other in cooking contests to determine who is the “Top Chef,” competiveness and one-upmanship are the names of the game. In the show, contestants ruthlessly vie against one another as they attempt to come out on top. The show is set in big modern cities like New York that are as famously cutthroat, as are the Top Chef’s contestants.

Stepping into the Hall of Presidents (HOP) on a sunny afternoon, catching glimpses of the rolling countryside outside through the hall’s large, arched windows, the atmosphere of Colgate Top Chef, which took place at the HOP on March 7, is markedly different. Students casually walk from table to table, sampling food prepared by friends and classmates. At the tables, Colgate students hand out samples of their culinary creations, share recipes and offer helpful dietary and meal-planning advice.

Co-sponsored by the Wellness Initiative and the Peer Health Educators, the Colgate Top Chef event emphasized that eating and cooking can be fun and nutritional.

The contest itself featured seven student entries. Each dish was judged both by a ballot of students attending the event and the professional decision of Chef Michael Stegnar, the executive chef on campus and a familiar presence at Frank Dining Hall. Students carrying little plates filled with lots of foods chose their favorite after properly trying out the lot. The amiable Chef Mike in his usual cowboy hat could be seen throughout the event talking to student chefs and trying their recipes.

Entries in the contest included an array of dishes. A chicken stir fry was prepared by first-years David Falk and Jason Sugarman. First-year Jana Minehart contributed apple wraps. Sophomores Eric Lasker and Joe Lombardo shared their chicken with roasted red pepper. Seniors Herbert Hill and Michael Carini along with junior Vil Hajric contributed their bruschetta recipe. First-years John Mahon and Charlotte Bavley offered a baby spinach salad. Seniors Alison Patchen and Geoff Ng presented a banana black bean dish.

Students appeared enthusiastic to present their recipes. Hill, Carini and Hajdric described their bruschetta as “simple and delicious.”

Several students groups, aware of what kind of food appeals to college students, emphasized their dishes as easy to make. Others noted their recipes’ easy-to-find ingredients.

The big winners at the end of the competition included the chicken stir-fry, apple wraps and banana black bean dish.

Beyond the competition itself, the Peer Health Educators had set up several stations dotting the room. One table gave helpful comparisons of fast-food dishes. McDonald’s Fillet of Fish turned out to be a lot worse than two hamburgers at most fast food places.

“It’s all in the oil,” junior Rachel Stahl explained.

Another station featured the solid ingredients of energy drinks measured out and put on display. Little paper plates were piled high with the huge mounds of sugar that are contained in just one can of many popular energy drinks. Students at the table also broke down the information different stimulants the energy drinks include. Ginseng, a common ingredient, can lead to an overdose, as it is a regularly occurring chemical in the human body.

The Wellness Initiative also offered a take-home souvenir to all who participated with their Recipes in a Mug. Recipes and ingredients for dishes including dirt pudding, instant oatmeal and chocolate fudge were given to all who participated with a complimentary mug. As is so often the case, the food that you prepare yourself can often be a lot better for you than the ready-made snacks you pick up at the grocery store, and just as tasty.

All in all, this first Top Chef Colgate might be the start of regular Colgate event.

As junior Rachel Stahl says, “it’s good health and good fun.”

And who knows? Maybe someday we’ll see a Top Chef Hamilton on the Bravo! network.