Chefs Roast Stanford in Cook-Off

Contact Jane Shin at [email protected]

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The smell of competition, school spirit and cooked tomatoes filled Pauley Ballroom Sunday afternoon as Cal Cooking Club emerged victorious in the first “Big Cook-Off” against Stanford University’s cooking club.

Approximately 250 students and alumni from both schools attended the five-on-five cook-off, which was initiated by UC Berkeley’s cooking club.

Cal Cooking Club created four dishes consisting of three tomato soups, chicken and salsa, ravioli wontons and a reinvention of pizza as the main dish. Stanford Cooking Club’s menu consisted of a salad, two tomato soups, and a main entree of custard using tomatoes, along with a pastry.

The dishes were judged by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Palo Alto Mayor Judy Kleinberg, Cheryl Koehler, editor and publisher of Edible East Bay and Doug Gutterman, a seafood purveyor in the Bay Area.

The dishes were judged on presentation, ingredient compatibility, creativity, and flavor and taste for a maximum of 55 points. The scores for each dish were then averaged to attain a final score for each team.

UC Berkeley’s final score was 42.187 with Stanford close behind at 41.166. As the winning team, UC Berkeley was awarded a mahogany plaque with a cleaver mounted on it.

Thirty minutes before the competition began, the teams were notified of the secret ingredient—tomato—and were allowed to create their menus and make minor preparations, said Karen Rogers, president of Cal Cooking Club, which she helped establish last January.

The actual competition lasted only 35 minutes, during which the teams had to create three dishes that incorporated tomatoes.

Both teams were able to bring in their own meats and special appliances, but the UC Berkeley club provided the tomatoes and Cal Dining provided various spices, Rogers said.

“The big problem with tomato is that there are a lot of points for originality, and we didn’t want to do just normal stuff so we had to think creatively,” said senior Sergio Gonzalez, one of the five competitors from UC Berkeley’s team. “In terms of tomato as an ingredient, it’s seasonal so it worked well.”

The competition was suggested by Cindy Deetz, owner and head chef of Berkeley restaurant Venezia, who worked with members of the Cal Cooking Club as part of a clinic series.

Chefs from Venezia were some of the first to teach the students in the clinic series, and the restaurant was a major sponsor for the Big Cook-Off.

Deetz originally suggested that a competition be held among UC campuses, but Stanford ultimately ended up being the most logical competitor.

“The long-term goal was to make it a UC-wide competition but since (the other UCs) didn’t have large cooking clubs, it was only natural to go for Stanford as our rivals,” she said.


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