Practice competition starts off semester
Soul food theme excites students, patrons alike
“Closer to Our Dreams” team member Fatimah Hanif serves up a portion of Chicken Macaroni and Cheese Casserole to Middle College High School student Ryan Belan during the Iron Chef Soul Food Battle held in the Three Seasons Restaurant on Jan. 23. Christian Urrutia / The Advocate
Returning culinary arts students received the chance to hone their talents for the community during the Iron Chef Soul Food Battle in the Three Seasons Restaurant on Jan. 23 as preparation for its spring semester opening.
The competition was held in AA-239 and students who have completed their first semester within culinary were chosen to participate.
Older community residents and plenty of students stopped by to taste and judge each one of the seven teams' incarnations of soul food.
Culinary arts assistant Angel Chau said, "We decided to make the theme soul food because it is something that you wouldn't normally see on a menu."
Nader Sharkes, culinary arts department chairperson and professor, backed up Chau's statements.
"We tend to have competitions based on one thing, either chicken or pasta, but this time we had various materials and we wanted to make simple stuff," Sharkes said.
He added that the theme allows the students to do much more with the food. Sharkes had checked with the students days before the event, and most had said Cajun or soul food should be the theme.
The winning team, "You Can't Touch This," provided what they called a "soul food explosion."
Team member Patchell Windom, a third semester culinary arts student, said, "We went with cornbread muffins and black eyed peas inside, garnished with greens and we smoked the turkey the day before, under a light bake setting."
"You Can't Touch This" won the competition with more than 25 votes by the end of the hour and half event.
Patrons had the option of choosing dishes that ranged from pulled pork chili with rice to a white sausage dish, boudin and candied yams.
Team member Maryum Simpkins, another third semester student, of "The Mission Bells," served veal with red beans and rice.
"We tenderized the veal and marinated it and had it sit overnight and then we soaked the beans 24 hours in advance and cooked it with vegetables. We are serving it with a garnish of bacon bits," Simpkins said. "Our team went with the definition of soul food."
Second semester student Armando Brito of "The Tourists" said they chose a casserole because it was simple, nice to use and has rich flavors.
"It is a fusion with Spanish and Soul food: a pork and beef casserole that we cooked in an oven with layers on top of cheeses and spices with a garnish of sour cream and lemon zest," Brito said.
Chau said, "This event is not a fundraiser, but more like practice for the students to start cooking in the kitchen."
Despite not being officially a fundraiser, the event took in $600 from an entry fee of $5 and the $5 charged to patrons, Sharkes said.
El Sobrante resident Judith Petersen said she knew about the restaurant from working close to the campus but decided to start visiting after she retired.
"This event is a great motivator and the kindness that is experienced here is better than most restaurants," Petersen said.
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