Walking into University of Connecticut Hillel’s front doors last night, I was greeted with a barrage of electrifying music with Hebrew lyrics and dozens of people excited to make everyone’s favorite dip: hummus. The 8th annual Hummus Experience, planned by Kylie Schectman, Hillel vice president of social affairs and fifth-semester education major, brought together over 12 teams of enthusiastic students – experienced chefs or not – to raise money for HuskyTHON.
The teams, with up to four members each, were tasked with transforming their 16-ounce tub of plain hummus in 30 minutes in a “Chopped”-style cooking competition. Each team had their own table station, with an adapted pantry stocked with produce and spices. With fun and creative team names, such as “Yummy Hummy in my Tummy” and “The Grad(Jew)ates,” each team looked ready to take on the challenge.
A panel of five esteemed judges for the competition included important members of the Hillel community, such as Tom Barkan, the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow of Hillel, Etan Markus, professor of psychology at UConn and Marty Grimsom, a chef for the Kosher Kitchen at Gelfenbien dining hall.
As soon as the timer went off, team members ran frantically to the back to secure the desired ingredients for their prized hummus. Perusing the pantry in the back, students grabbed an array of ingredients, from chocolate sauce to avocados.
At their designated stations, they worked in a flurry, chopping up peppers, squeezing lemons and peeling carrots.
‘Members were spooning their creations into sample cups by the 25-minute mark, trying to find creative ways to present their hummus. “The Hummusapiens” added celery as a garnish for the judges, while the “Challah Back Girls” added strawberry and lime on the rim of their sample cups, reminiscent of a summer cocktail.
Spectators and team members were given six tickets to deposit into bowls onto each team’s table to vote for their hummus. Teams could not put tickets into their own bowls, and could only place up to two tickets in each bowl of other teams. Pretzels were given to taste the teams’ hummus. The teams with the top five amount of tickets moved on to give their hummus to the judges to taste. The top five teams were “Hummus Fiends,” “Mark’s Team,” “Challah Back Girls,” “The Dixie Chickpeas” and “the Hummusapiens.”
“This was a fun opportunity for us to do,” Sarah Cohn, a first-semester student in the ACES program and a member of “the Hummusapiens,” said. “We usually come to Friday night dinners, so we wanted to see what it would be like to come during a weeknight and hang out. We definitely want to enter again next year, it was a lot of fun.”
After some contention with the votes, “The Hummus Fiends” were crowned the winners, with a sweet and spicy hummus made with lime, honey and garlic powder. They will receive a year’s supply worth of hummus. “The Hummusapiens” were announced as the runner-ups, with a hummus made with avocado, paprika and cilantro.
“I like to tell people I’m a classically trained chef,” a third-semester chemical engineering major and a member of The Dixie Chickpeas, said. All of the members of the team are part of UConn Hillel. “All three of us love hummus. We have a very big supply of it in our apartment. We’re definitely going to do this again next year and we’re definitely going to win.”
“Hummus Experience is our big event of the fall semester,” Schechtman, said. “I think it went really well, and a lots of team participated. This event was good for getting members who aren’t usually as involved to get into the building for a fun event.”
The event raised over $100 for HuskyTHON, and everyone was able to eat their share of hummus, so truly, everyone was a winner at the Annual Hummus Experience.
Hollie Lao is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.