Take 3 JWU College of Culinary Arts student finalists, one mystery basket, and 45 minutes ticking down on the clock — welcome to the Iron Chef Challenge at JWU Charlotte, co-sponsored by JWU’s dining hall partner Chartwells and food-tech startup Hampton Creek.
The 3 competitors won their regional challenges by creating and serving a signature dish to their peers, who then voted for their favorites. The campus winners and their winning dishes:
- LaNeicia Anderson, North Miami: Sesame chicken lettuce wraps
- Cordero Redmon, Charlotte: Barbeque beef
- Stephen Rogers, Denver: Honey-glazed pork loin
Now the student chefs found themselves in front of a standing-room only audience at Hance Auditorium, with less than an hour to concepualize and scratch-cook for the very hungry guest judges:
- Richie Farina '05, Hampton Creek culinary concierge chef + “Top Chef” S9 contestant
- Fred Heaviside, Chartwells regional VP
- Jerry Lanuzza, dean of JWU Charlotte's College of Culinary Arts
The students were allowed to use any ingredients from the hot and cold pantry, but their dishes were required to incorporate the following:
- arctic char (whole)
- salmon roe
- fava beans
- Hampton Creek Just Mayo Sriracha, Just Sweet Mustard salad dressing + Just Mayo Truffle
As the students began their prep, MC Chris Ivens-Brown of Chartwells kept things moving briskly with running commentary. With prep underway, he asked judge Richie about his experiences on “Top Chef”: “It helped my career more than I ever could have imagined,” said Richie, whose resume also included Chicago’s pioneering Modernist restaurant Moto. “It’s all real time, so if you don’t finish, you don’t finish.” Pause. “That means start prepping that fish, guys!”
Each student chef also talked about their inspirations and secret talents. Cordero showed off his ability to turn his legs backwards; Stephen revealed that his nickname is Captain America (“Because his real name is Stephen Rogers!”); and LaNeicia talked about learning to cook her grandmother’s signature gumbo.
As the clock ticked down, they remained calm and focused as they finished up their plating, then served the waiting judges, who promptly dug in.
In the end, LaNeicia’s dish was deemed the winner — with Stephen coming in second and Cordero, third. Amid claps and whoops from the crowd, judge Richie posed for selfies with the hard-working student chefs.
Next stop for LaNeicia: San Francisco! Her grand prize is a 3-day trip to San Francisco, including
- an SF food tour
- a grand tour of Hampton Creek’s Mission headquarters, including recipe development with their Michelin-starred chefs
- a tour of the cafeterias and cafes that keep Silicon Valley going, including Google, LucasFilm + Pinterest
- attending a Giants game
Have an amazing trip, LaNeicia! Send us a postcard.
Photos by Wes Brown