WSU students face off in first-ever culinary showcase

Dining services employees used surprise ingredients to create dish for judges



Members from one Northside Dining Hall team prepare food during the Campus Cookoff on Wednesday in Northside Dining Hall. The event was a competition between two Northside Dining Hall teams and one from Southside.

GEORGE ERALIL, Evergreen reporter

Crack, clatter, pop, spill and wafts of aromatic smells filled Northside Café when the whistle blew on the first-ever Campus Cook Off at the Cougar Den last night.

The cook-off featured student employees from WSU Dining Services who worked in teams of three. A total of three teams – two from Northside Cafe and one from Southside Cafe — participated in the frenzied competition.

Kenitra Keeney, general manager at Northside Cafe, said the idea for the cook-off was conceived from a desire to diversify the cuisine and promote inclusiveness.

The cook-off also provides the student employees with a chance to showcase their talents and get recognized, she said.

“A lot of times, our student employees are like the unsung heroes,” Keeney said. “They work really hard and then don’t get a chance to get recognized.”

The contest had the teams prepare an appetizer over a period of 30 minutes and an entree in 45 minutes. The ingredients for the dishes came from two mystery boxes that contained a set of four items, all of which had to be incorporated into the dish.

Laurie Renee Kennedy, WSU Dining Services executive chef, and one of the judges in the contest said the main criteria for judgment would be the contestants’ ability to think of creative ways to put together the different ingredients in the mystery boxes.

The mystery box for the appetizer contained canned lychees in syrup, red quinoa, a cheese sauce mix and Guajillo chiles, while the ingredients in the mystery box for the entree included yellow curry paste, frozen waffle squares, sweet potatoes and Israeli couscous.

Northside’s appetizer, “Northside one,” presented a lettuce and flour wrap filled with meat and mushrooms flavored in lychee sauce.

The second Northside team, “Seniors,” presented a couscous and quinoa salad incorporated with a lychee-grapefruit vinaigrette and gyro meat.

The Southside team prepared a vegan meat taco with quinoa and lychee on the side.

For the entree round, the Seniors prepared a curry meatball sub, made with pineapples. Their dish also featured an apple salad with lemon vinaigrette and waffle croutons.

The Northside one team presented the judges with meatball sliders made in curry and beef broth, along with a kale and couscous salad and sweet potato fries.

The Southside team went with a spicy Indonesian meatball curry in a waffle taco with sauteed veggies.

Southside won, with the Seniors and Northside one coming in second and third place, respectively.

After the contest, Jamie Wilson, WSU humanities major and member of the Southside team, shared her love for cooking and competition. She said her desire to get recognized for her work, which she otherwise would not receive working in a kitchen or restaurant, is what drove her to compete in the cook-off.

Adam Koerner, assistant director of culinary operations, said he hopes to see the event as a series, with winners of past cook-offs coming back to compete again in later events.

“That would be a lot of fun, to be able to bring people back even after they have graduated, to try and get them to come back and share stories about what they’re doing now,” said Koerner. “It could become something larger than what it is right now.”