The Asian American Cultural Center (AsACC) was bubbling with activity as three teams of students convened to showcase their cooking skills in the first ever “Food Fusion Feud.” The cooking competition, hosted last night by MIXED, challenged teams to create dishes that fused two or more cultures into their food. With an hour and a half to create their respective dishes, the teams set to work, preparing to wow the three student judges and spectators present that would all taste the dishes at the end.
“MIXED isn’t a student organization, but a student-run program that invites graduate and undergraduate students to come celebrate their mixed heritage,” Nadejah Green, an eighth-semester special education major, said. She is a reviver of the program. “If students want to host events, we offer them the resources and supplies to do so. We host four events per semester, with the goal to show the greater UConn community that we are whole people, not half people, despite what mixed heritage may seem like to others.”
The room quickly filled with the smell of mushrooms, sesame oil and onions as the students set about chopping, breading and frying.
“I came up with the idea for this event last year, so I’m glad we were able to get it going this year,” Green continued. “I’m actually very shocked by the amount of people that came, especially with the cold weather and the basketball game, so I’m glad people came and are enjoying themselves and having fun.”
The winning team put together the partnership of Trajan Murphy and Gabriel Lozada Rodriguez. From roasting corn on the stove to chopping up a flurry of onion and pepper, the duo’s Chinese-Mexican fusion dishes were made to impress. They introduced their team as incorporating the Chinese math remainder theorem, citing their math majors as inspiration. They served the judges chorizo-filled potstickers and Mexican fried rice. The judges gave the team full points on all levels for their presentation, creativity and teamwork, as their dish was executed “effortlessly and flawlessly.”
The second-place team was comprised of Brianna Miloz, Kayla Wong, Ryan Haynes and Yasmine Taha, who introduced their food as a “wild rice dish with global inspiration and an abundance of flavor,” using all of their respective cultures to create the one dish. They had a corn and flour tortilla with fried rice and chicken topped with bok choy and tzatziki sauce. They were lauded for their fantastic presentation and creativity, considering their representation of more than four cultures in their dishes.
The third-place team in the competition consisted of team members Moira Lewerk, Brandon Zezima, Victor Gandiosi and Benjamin Palazzo. They presented their dish as a “struggle Valentine’s Day meal,” given the holiday’s nearing proximity. Their Chinese inspiration came in the form of tofu in an orange chocolate cake, as well as with their dumplings and canton noodles. They also incorporated a Spanish flair with chorizo inside of their dumplings, and Italian representation with a pasta dish. They won points for their unique ingredients, although critics raised concerns with how their dish meshed together overall, and they won third.
“I’m basically an international student, so whenever there’s an international event I want to come and try different countries’ foods and expose myself to their culture,” Majdolin Al Jajeh, an eighth-semester biological sciences major, said about the event. “I love eating, so I’m glad I came. The smell is incredible and it’s like a mix of two cultures on the plate to make one food, so I think that’s really cool.”
Hollie Lao is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.