OSU chef wins local charity cook-off at Union
Published: Sunday, October 3, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
Two chefs, one from Ohio State and one from Whole Foods Market, sliced, diced and battled their way toward culinary perfection in the Local Foods Iron Chef Cook-Off at the Ohio Union on Sunday.
Dollars 4 Change, a student club founded last spring that strives to help local nonprofit organizations, hosted the cook-off in conjunction with Local Matters, a nonprofit organization in Columbus that works to create a healthy community through local food.
Kunal Parikh, a third-year in chemical engineering and president and co-founder of Dollars 4 Change, said the club's goal is not to just raise money but also to plan events that have meaning for the organization.
"We want the event to be significant," Parikh said. "We want it to be something that will promote the types of things they do and attract people that will want to get involved and help this organization move forward."
Almost 70 people came to the Instructional Kitchen in the Union's basement from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Many spent half an hour mingling and drinking hot cider before the event began.
Dan Mushalko, general manager and radio host at WBCE, central Ohio's National Public Radio station, was the master of ceremonies at the cook-off. Audience members interacted with the emcee throughout the event. They asked questions, made comments and learned tips about cooking and nutrition. Mushalko also probed the chefs for answers and tips while they cooked.
Chef Rick Barnes and Chef Stazi Dulman wore OSU and Whole Food hats, respectively, while they competed to see whose recipes would most please the judges' taste buds. Dollars 4 Change chose three judges who determined, after 30 minutes of cooking, who would be named Iron Chef for the evening.
A secret ingredient — speckled hound squash — threw a twist into the competition. The squash the chefs incorporated into their dishes was grown locally at Honeyrun Farm in Williamsport, which is about 50 minutes south of Columbus.
Whole Foods donated the rest of the ingredients.
Not knowing who the judges were presented a challenge to the chefs.
"Maybe the food I'm doing isn't contemporary enough," Barnes said. "If they're used to eating at more traditional places … then my stuff might be too far out for them."
The three judges were Michael Stinziano, a candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives; Todd Mills, director of development and marketing for Local Matters; and Colleen Braumoeller, manager of the Greener Grocer at the North Market and Local Matters worker.
Barnes presented three dishes on one plate. Each dish contained the squash in a different form: fried, like a dessert potato chip; roasted with green tomato marinara, like an appetizer; and tossed in salt, pepper and olive oil, roasted with some onion and mixed with rice.
"It's very simple. All the flavors come out very well in it. It's very healthy," said Barnes, who has been a vegetarian for almost 11 years. "To me, this is really good flavor."
Barnes and Dulman were judged on showmanship, or how entertaining they were while they cooked, as well as the menu, taste and creativity of the dish.
Dulman's dish was Indian-inspired. Dulman, a trained butcher, said he wanted to add protein to the vegan ingredients, which is why he used beans, red rice and legumes.
The chefs remained relaxed throughout the competition, talking while they cooked and even embracing at the end.
"It's more the journey than the destination," Dulman said. "Making new friendships and establishing new contacts is more important than winning, in my opinion."
After the entire audience tasted both dishes and voted, the judges gave their final decision: Chef Rick Barnes of OSU was named the Iron Chef of the evening.
The event sold out, and Local Matters received all proceeds from the event.
"People just like food. They like this kind of stuff," Barnes said. "Seems to me that you put food in the picture, and people go for it. It's culture, you know."
Local Matters was founded on the belief that problems we face as a society, such as global warming and health care, can all be tied back to food.
"Food connects us to the most important issues of our time," said Michael Jones, executive director of Local Matters. "Food is that thing we gather around and have fun with."
The Local Foods Iron Chef Cook-Off acted as a successful beginning to the Second Annual Local Foods Week, which is hosted by Local Matters and runs through Friday. The week is full of events that celebrate food while raising awareness about the importance of healthy and local food in the community.
"I really appreciate this sort of thing because I've been trying to eat more locally and going to farmers markets," said Hannah Solomon, a third-year in anthropology who liked Dulman's dish the best. "I'm vegetarian now, so I've been trying to eat healthier."
For Parikh, the week is about more than just planning events.
"It's about inspiring people to help out the community and do their part," Parikh said.