The heat was on for 7 Johnson & Wales University students who competed in the inaugural Great Bake Off and second annual Iron Chef competitions, sponsored by Compass Group and Hampton Creek and held on April 26. The universitywide event brought student competitors from all 4 campuses to compete at JWU Denver’s College of Culinary Arts and was broadcast live on Facebook.
Set like a reality TV show, a giant digital clock posted in the competition labs ticked down each vital second as each competitor worked furiously to finish plating his or her creations. As the clock reached zero, MC and host Chef Richie Farina ‘05 declared, “Hands up!”
- GREAT BAKE OFF
Ariana Kim PROVIDENCE
Elizabeth M. Harkness NORTH MIAMI
Casandra Lindsey DENVER
- IRON CHEF
Charli Spiegel PROVIDENCE
Pablo J. Mendez NORTH MIAMI
Mikquell Nell DENVER
Emily Hoffman CHARLOTTE
Competitors were challenged to make their own dish, but with a twist — it had to contain a “secret” ingredient: in this case, mayonnaise. “This is the first time I’ve done something like this before. I’m really nervous!” said senior Lindsey just minutes before the competition began.
Harkness won the Great Bake Off with a chocolate Bavarian cream on top of cookie crumbles, an apricot puree and vanilla bean whipped cream. Hoffman was declared JWU Iron Chef with her dish of broiled arctic char on a fava bean purée with roasted potatoes.
Both winners will receive an all-expense paid culinary extravaganza trip to San Francisco. Decked in his familiar look of aviator goggles and bandana, Chef Farina — a Bravo “Top Chef” Season 9 competitor who currently serves as executive chef and head of Hampton Creek’s Culinary Concierge program — brought a bit of flair to the event and offered advice to the competitors.
“I remember when I was young and competed on Top Chef. I got in my own head when I messed up with things. Let’s say they do something during the competition that doesn’t work out? So how do you recover from mistakes, how do you push forward and keep going long? That really helps in judging the maturity of the chefs and what they’re doing,” said Farina. “My advice? Do what you do… don’t try to be super creative or go out of your comfort zone. While appearance is important, above all, taste has to be the first thing you look for.”
All of the dishes were judged on taste, creativity, appearance and aroma by Amos Watts '03, executive chef at Old Major in Denver, JWU Denver Chef-Instructor Heath Stone '95 and Denisse Castillo, executive chef at Chartwells in North Miami. Congratulations to all the student finalists who brought their A-game to the competition.
TOP: IRON CHEF MC RICHIE FARINA '05 INTERVIEWS JWU PROVIDENCE COMPETITOR CHARLI SPIEGEL. // BELOW: JWU DENVER STUDENT MIKQUELL NELL PLATES UP. // ELIZABETH HARKNESS ACCEPTS THE TROPHY. BOTTOM: Harkness’s winning dish. | ALL PHOTOS: MIKE COHEA