By Amanda Brasgalla, Guest Writer
Team Burning Sensation toasted the competition in Pacific Lutheran University’s fifth Commons on Fire competition Sunday, earning the gold medal.
Put on by PLU’s Dining and Culinary Services, the competition gave three teams two hours to create a delectable appetizer and entrée with 12 surprise ingredients. Teams consisted of Commons chefs, PLU students and one faculty member. The event started PLU’s Culinary Week, which focuses on bringing the importance of cuisine into the minds of students.
“It builds awareness about how fun and interesting cooking is,” Director of Dining and Culinary Services Erin McGinnis said. “Commons on Fire is an educational event that we can show what we know.”
McGinnis helped start the competition five years ago and said she loves that students are starting to get excited about food on an every day basis.
The Commons’ Sous Chefs Doug Hinners and Erick Swenson know this excitement about food well.
“Dining and Culinary Services really prospers the food geek,” Swenson said. “And in professional competitions, the amount of learning that takes place is tremendous.”
Commons on Fire is based on professional competitions, but to some foodies, it may resemble Iron Chef America or Chopped on the Food Network Channel.
But Hinners thinks that Commons on Fire diverges from the TV shows in cuisine quality.
“It is little less like rushing and more like cooking,” Hinners said.
PLU students, staff and family members watched in awe as chefs sliced, diced, fried and created delicacies with the twelve surprise ingredients. Some of the most interesting ingredients included Alaskan Turbot (a type of flatfish), Gjetost cheese (a Norwegian caramelized cheese) and sea salt pumpkin seeds.
“Each year I am absolutely blown away by the creativity and detail in the professionals,” McGinnis said. “It’s a great way for us to focus on food and that fun energy.”
Observers said they felt that type of energy flow while watching the chefs.
“Each team had different dishes that were really diverse and interesting,” sophomore Kailey McEvilly said. “It really looked like a tough competition.”
Burning Sensation beat out the two competing teams, Flying J and New Elegance with their dishes of curry turbot fish soup and rib eye with fermented black bean compound butter and gjetost caramelized potatoes. These dishes also won the prize for best eye appeal as voted on by the audience.
With two prizes in tow, Burning Sensation truly smoked this year’s Commons on Fire.