The Top Chef Cooking competition was held on Thursday, Nov. 16, in Malloy Commons, where 10 students of all grade levels and staff members showcased homemade food. Different members of the faculty and staff, including Dean of Men Daniel Annarelli and fine arts teacher Jocelyn Grau, judged and critiqued the culinary creations. This was the first year that the Top Chef club hosted Thanksgiving-themed competition.
The winner of the competition was freshman Jacob Bryant for his sweet potato pie. Theology teacher and Top Chef club moderator Thomas Cendejas said, “One thing we liked about Jacob’s dish was not only the simplicity but also the strong and distinct flavors as well. Also, Jacob went above and beyond because, due to a mix-up, he also made a pie the week before the competition and still made another one for the actual competition.”
Employee services staff member Stephanie Cardenas won second place for her Peruvian tamales. Freshman Grant Rothman won third place for his pumpkin soup with toasted croutons.
Cendejas said, “Grant’s pumpkin soup was not only unique for the table and tasty, but he also paid attention to presentation.”
Some of the Loyola staff helped the competitors set up for their presentations. Cendejas said, “My favorite part of this competition is being able to see young men and their teachers presenting their food proudly side-by-side and the fact that everyone at the table has participated in a generous creative act, much like cooking for our loved ones at home.”
He said, “It also makes me happy to walk by the contestants and hear them explain how they made the dish, often using language like ‘flavor palette’ that they may have gleaned from cooking shows.”
Sophomore Michael Yang, who brought turkey fried rice to the competition, said, “This is my first competition, and I like that everyone brings a dish that they have prepared at home.”
Freshman Patrick Karkafi, who showcased homemade pumpkin rolls, said, “The biggest obstacle that I had was making the cake component of the roll because it was very hard to keep it from ripping and keeping it in one piece. I really like looking at other people’s meals and what they each brought to the competition and the creativity that they put into making the food.”
The Top Chef club talks about different foods, new restaurants and recipes. Club members demo recipes and vote on themes for upcoming competitions. The Thanksgiving cook-off was the first competition of the school year, but the club has held competitions for over nine years and plans to do more this year.
Junior Seung Kang, one of the officers of the Top Chef club, said, “I really like that the club encourages participation and creativity from all of its members. This club exists because students with interest in food are willing to share their culinary skills and knowledge by bringing in dishes or simply talking with the club about food.”
First-place winner Bryant received a $25 Amazon gift card while the second and third place winners each received $10 Amazon gift cards.
The Top Chef club’s next competition, inspired by the “Great British Bake-Off” show, will be held in December and will invite students to prepare holiday-themed cookies, cakes, breads and more.