Recipe for success wins cooking contest

You're the Chef cooking contest

Winners Team Education Hungry: Barbara Lesnicka, Widad Hussein and Stephanie Perez. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Service

UIC students sizzled, sauced and spiced at the fifth annual “You’re The Chef” cooking competition last week.

For 90 minutes, five teams of three students each cooked up their own special menus in the East Café at Student Center East.

“We’re not a culinary school, so it was interesting to see so many students who love to cook,” said Roslyn Pitts, director of Dining Services.

Each team chose its ingredients from fresh options provided by Dining Services, then prepared three courses: an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Five judges picked the winner based on taste, appearance, creativity and organization.

Team Education Hungry — Widad Hussein, Barbara Lesnicka and Stephanie Perez, all seniors in education — cooked its way to first place with an appetizer of tilapia ceviche on crostini with lentil and onion soup, beef stir fry and French toast a la mode with fresh berries. Their menu will be served in All-You-Care-To-Eat dining areas Nov. 15.

“Garlic was our main ingredient,” said Hussein, the team’s captain.

“They were impressive — they knew what they were doing,” said Case Green, the Dining Services chef who assisted the team.

Team Cuochi Italiani — featuring international students Edoardo Colombo, Luca Cioria and Diego Martinoia, all graduate students in computer science — took second place.

“It was like a blur — a rush,” Martinoia said.

Event emcee Derrick Young, CBS2 traffic reporter and University of Illinois alum, kept student supporters and family members entertained as the teams worked.

Team Cuochi Italiani

Team Cuochi Italiani took second: (from left) William Chadwick, Dining Services chef, and grad students Edoardo Colombo, Diego Martinoia and Luca Cioria.
Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

“The judges are looking for heart, passion and skill in your cooking,” he told the student chefs.

With about 20 minutes left on the clock, teams started to plate their culinary concoctions as Young strolled around the room.

“I see hats falling off, teams running around, it’s crunch time,” Young said.

Judges included restaurateurs from the area, as well as foodie UIC employees: Andrew Zimmerman, executive chef at Sepia; Rich Price, UIC superintendent of building services; Ina Pinkney, chef/owner of Ina’s; Lauren Finlon, special programs and facilities coordinator for the UIC Pavilion; and Enrique Cortes, executive chef at La Taberna Tapas.

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