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Friday, December 01, 2023
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Scrambling to Compete

The smell of food brought long lines of hungry students to the Student Union Lobby last Friday in hopes of getting a free taste of international cuisine.

Nine clubs from the International Council as well as PODER, a club from the People of Color Council, participated in the Annual Iron Chef competition hosted by the International Council and Student Association.

This year's competition was the largest yet.

The event drew inspiration from the popular TV show, Iron Chef, in which a secret ingredient must be incorporated into each dish.

This year, the ingredient was egg.

Unlike the TV show in which the chefs are notified of what the ingredient is right before they cook, the clubs were given a month to prepare and the dishes were made in advance.

"The only problem with [eggs] is that the dishes could be too simple," said Indonesian SA's Chef Alex Ticoalu, a graduate student in the department of geography. "There's so much you can do with them, so clubs might think into it [too much]."

All of the clubs used chicken's eggs in their dishes, but the first place winners, Japanese SA (JSA), took it up a notch. Three notches to be exact.

"[We used] three types of eggs in our dish," said JSA's Treasurer Kevin Mei, a junior electrical engineering major.

Salmon roe, chicken eggs, and tarake were used to incorporate many of its cultural aspects into their dish. This made their cuisine stand out above the rest.

The club's entrée was inspired by "Hina Matsuri," also known as, Girl's Day, an annual doll festival in Japan. Two edible dolls topped the club's final dish with their heads made out of eggs and faces out of nori, seaweed.

The club worked with its Japanese-born members to come up with the dish, according to Mei. Participants also turned to family from back home to help them brainstorm creative foods.

"I called my grandma [so] she could teach me how to make the food," said Naoko Ueda, a Japanese exchange student and a junior economics major.

Students who work in SA judged the food based on taste and presentation. They all starved themselves for the event, said Carl Ross, the international council coordinator and a senior Asian studies major.

There was a three-way tie for second place among the Bangladeshi, Chinese and Vietnamese SA's. Hong Kong SA took home third.

Due to the hype and smell of all the cuisines involved, hundreds of students took part this year as willing and eager samplers. The clubs weren't expecting such a large turnout and as a result, ran out of food much faster than anticipated.

"I'm upset [because] there's no food left," said Ankita Kale, a senior environmental engineering major. "I just got here, and I didn't get to try anything."

However, students who did receive a taste of sample dishes were disappointed in the lack of variety the cultures represented.

"When I heard International Iron Chef, I thought there was going to be a larger variety [of cultures]," said Tal Kissos, a junior media studies major. "The participants are all mainly from Asian countries."

Despite the event running out of food and focus mainly on Asian cultures, the event served as a way for students to experience other cultures beyond a textbook. The goal of the event was to bring people together, according to Nibadita Paul, a senior in the school of management and assistant to the International Council coordinator.

"I think this is a great way to showcase one of the many things the International Council has," Paul said. "Food brings people together."




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