Thursday, April 11, 2013

Commons on Fire brings home 'Da Bacon'

By Stephanie Beckman, News Writer

For two hours, Pacific Lutheran University transformed the dining commons into a kitchen stadium that any iron chef would have been proud to enter on Sunday.
Three teams composed of PLU chefs, staff and students faced off to combine 12 mystery ingredients that included truffle popcorn, hot chilies, halibut, pork and lamb into a starter and entree to seduce the judges’ taste buds.

At the end of the night, the judges decreed that Da Sizzlin’ Baconadors led by Laura Castano, the commons floor supervisor, had tamed the wood fires of Aglio and earned bragging rights for the year.
Anthony McGinnis, line cook, led last-year’s winners, Burning Sensation, to second-place while The Compostables, led by another line cook, Rebecca Rotchstein, came in third.
To promote teamwork among the chefs, the point totals for each team are not released, but the judges came to a clear decision, Director of Dining and Culinary Services Erin McGinnis said.
Erin McGinnis was the one to select the ingredients for the competition and had clear criteria. She said she looked for “the freshest and the best as far as the proteins went” and said, “you want [ingredients] to be as versatile as possible.”
The chefs also trained with Master Chef Ken Arnone, who is from the Culinary Institute of America, to work on techniques which will keep them from becoming restricted.
“We respect the food and this is not just about pumping out food en masse,” Erin McGinnis said.
Arnone said his experiences as a master chef have shown him every facet of the culinary industry. According to his website,, Arnone is now one of 61 certified master chefs in the nation.
Arnone was both a student and professor at the Culinary Institute of America. He said for him, the roles of teacher and chef intersect.
“As chefs we teach,” Arnone said. “That must be or should be your role.”
Arnone led in both of these roles during culinary week, working with the chefs to help overcome potential challenges, as well as giving direction and guidance.
Arnone challenged chefs to break down and prepare whole goats and rabbits. The goal of these exercises is to integrate more local, fresh and sustainable ingredients into the menu.
One of the new recipes Dining Services’ employees are going to try to implement after this culinary week is a risotto recipe they were unable to serve successfully in the past.
Although the fire has been quenched in the Commons, the chefs were able to show off their skills at the free lunch event on Wednesday, which occurred during the Commons lunch hours. 
Dining Services also held instructional sessions throughout this week including a session on fresh pasta, the Pike Place Fish Guys, Worcestershire sauce, spaghetti di zucca and gelato.
The final event, The Art of Competition, will begin at 10:30 a.m. today in the Anderson University Center room 133.
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