Spice Spice Baby, the Student Involvement and Leadership cooking group, won the fourth annual Weber State University Meal Madness culinary competition under the pressure of a ticking clock on Nov. 9.
SIL competed against two other groups of nursing students and the physics club. Participants from these different institutional departments were directed to create a three-course meal of their own choosing and had to incorporate one of the four surprise ingredients given to them that day.
Their choices contained edamame, pomegranates, ginger beer and Cheez-Its. Each entrée had to include one of the four distinct ingredients and had to be completed and plated for judges within a 45-minute timeframe.
Amanda Williams, a member of the physics club, competed with the group called “Spaghettification” along with Colleen Mills and Ryan Lawton.
Minutes after the timer went off and judges were left to deliberate, Williams recalled the stress from the time constraint “reminds me of every Thursday night when I’m working on my physics homework.”
Amber Hoy, marketing manager for Weber Dining, emceed the competition and kept competitors informed of their time constraint and publicized the event via Facebook Live. While helping in providing the necessary ingredients and supplies that participants needs for their dishes, Hoy gave insight on the specific time limit set.
“We wanted to put the pressure on them and have them cook a good meal, but we also wanted them to sweat a little bit,” said Hoy.
While thinking quickly to incorporate the mystery ingredients in their dishes, participants had to focus on their presentation, taste and texture of the food and creativity.
Students, spectators and the judges milled around while the participants cooked their meals. The judges, all Weber State alumni, came from various cooking backgrounds.
David Chen, sous-chef at University hospital; Mara Criddle, owner of Criddle’s Café; and Troy Poll, owner of BBQ Pit Stop, critiqued the dishes presented before them and rated the work on a scale from one to five.
Criddle, who was excited to see how participants would fuse their recipes, was particularly interested in seeing how they would use the mysterious ginger beer ingredient.
Growing nearer to the end, participants began to plate their food items close to the 10-minute mark and made last minute adjustments to their meals. Drizzles of honey, scrapes of peanut sauce and slivers of grated lemon peels adorned their plates prior to being presented to the judges.
The winning group received a personalized gift basket for each member of the team, decorated and filled with various cooking utensils, food products and a $25 Weber dining gift card. All participants, regardless of whether they won, received a $10 Weber dining gift card.
Chen, who had complimented the SIL group on their use of presenting their dessert parfait first rather than their appetizer, was excited to see teamwork among the participants.
“There were a lot of nice ingredients. They were able to select what they wanted to do, and to be done with 45 minutes … that’s really amazing. For those who aren’t in culinary, they were able to use the ingredients and make it happen,” said Chen.