Student chefs compete for residence bragging rights
By Neale McDevitt
When a group of students in McGill residences approached Oliver De Volpi in January about a staging an intra-University cooking competition based on the popular Iron Chef television franchise, he had one thing on his mind. “My only objective was to discourage them from doing this,” said the McGill Food and Dining Services’ Executive Chef. “It looked completely overwhelming.”
But over the course of their meeting, the students managed to assuage De Volpi’s doubts and convince him that it would be a perfect fit for the March installment of Rez Warz, the annual competition that pits residence against residence in a yearlong Olympiad of events including soccer, capture the flag, dodgeball and inner tube water polo.
“The more we went over the details, the more doable it seemed,” he said. “In the end I said ‘Why not?’”
The ground rules were simple: each of McGill’s nine residences nominated a team of three student cooks who, during the course of the two-hour competition at the end of March, prepared two services from a box of ingredients in their assigned dining halls. While the majority of the teams worked in the kitchen of their respective residence, MORE (McGill’s Off-campus Residence Experience) and Solin Hall were asked to use Royal Victoria College or New Residence Hall kitchens. The chef from each residence would be on hand to lend support to each team, but no physical help.
Each team was given a box that contained organic firm tofu, one can of chickpeas, three whole organic chickens from les Fermes Voltigeur, a box of mixed Quebec mushrooms, and quail eggs. From that, and using whatever other ingredients were available in their kitchen, participants were required to produce 16 portions of chicken and six portions of a vegetarian dish, including one presentation plate of each. Any additional dish, such as dessert, was considered a bonus.
And how did De Volpi rate the final products? “They blew me away,” he said with a laugh. “One team made a red velvet crepe stuffed with whipped cream and maple syrup – I had never seen a red velvet crepe before… Obviously these people really love to cook.”
With a panel of judges using originality, presentation, taste, temperature and the use of ingredients as its guidelines, the team from McConnell emerged victorious, with the teams from Solin Hall and Carrefour Sherbrooke taking second- and third-place respectively.
“In the end, the students deserve all the credit – it was their idea, we just helped make it happen,” said De Volpi, who apparently has gotten over his early reservations over the whole idea. “We will definitely do this again next year.”