Iron Chef fundraiser benefits State College Area Food Bank

The State College Area Food Bank received a donation of more than $3,500, thanks to an innovative “Iron Chef” fundraising event hosted on Saturday, March 28, by the Nutrition Graduate Student Association (NGSA). Twelve teams representing various units within the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) competed in a culinary battle for two awards: the best overall dish and most money raised. And the secret ingredient of the competition? Root vegetables.

Teams cooked for an hour and a half in the kitchen of Anne Corr, instructor of nutritional sciences, using any of the 14 root vegetables at their disposal. Contestants could also use a slew of other ingredients donated by the local Giant and Wegmans grocery stores. Many of the ingredients were nonperishable; NGSA intended to donate any ingredients not used in the competition to the Food Bank.

The meals were judged by Nan Crouter, Raymond E. and Erin Stuart Schultz dean of the College of Health and Human Development; Kit Stanton, lab assistant in Anne Corr’s kitchen; and Linda Tataliba ’74 H EC, director of the State College Area Food Bank. After the judging, Tataliba voiced her gratitude. “State College is a wonderful place for a food bank. Without support from Penn State students and the local community, we wouldn’t be able to provide assistance to so many families in need.”

“When I came up with the idea for this cooking competition I had three key objectives,” said Maureen Spill, one of the key planners for the event. “First, I wanted to raise money for a good cause. Second, I wanted to plan an event that would bring the college together and build rapport among the various HHD departments. Lastly, I wanted to promote nutrition. I feel confident that the objectives were met.”

The team awarded best overall meal was Phat Beets (a play on the slang phrase “phat beats,” referring to good music, and the team’s selected secret ingredient, the beet). School of Hospitality Management students Evan Alteu, Trevor Swope and Crystal Lingle cooked up a beet-heavy dish they called “Off the Beeten Path” that showcased a variety of ways to use multiple kinds of beets in food. They concocted a trio of culinary gems that included a salad using beet greens, a beet sashimi meal and a beet sorbet for dessert.

Capocuocas Bellas (translated: “Beautiful Chefs”) won the prize for the most money raised, totaling more $700. The team gathered money largely through e-mail and letter-writing to family, friends, classmates and department faculty members. Mary Lai, graduate student in human development and family studies and one of the team’s members, noted, “I think most (if not all) our supporters donated not only because it was for a good cause but also because they know how much we love to cook and eat.”

Teams were judged, in part, on the creativity of their dishes. Hot Pots Alliance, a team of health policy and administration students, designed a Korean dish called Jab-chae, which they thought represented HHD perfectly: “To make this dish,” noted team member Jungyoon Kim, “you should prepare all the ingredients separately, including cutting and frying each vegetable, one kind at a time. This way, each ingredient keeps its own flavors and scents. Similarly, in HHD, we have nine different departments. They are all different in some way but they mingle very well under the name of HHD, still containing their own characteristics.”

“I think it's great to have events that really get people involved more than just writing a check,” said participant Liz Manning, graduate student in human development and family studies. “I think this was an excellent fundraiser because it not only got people involved, but the activity itself was tied to the beneficiary organization.”

Crouter agreed. “Students in HHD never cease to amaze me. This competition was so innovative, and brought together so many of our college’s departments for a great cause.”

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Last Updated November 18, 2010