Students Show Off Cooking Skills at "Trial by Fire" Competition

by Sam Cleaves '14
Trial by Fire cooking competition
(photos by Elena Ruyter '14)

Earlier this month, Sharples Dining Hall transformed into an arena for a campus-wide cooking competition, Trial by Fire. The event, organized by Dakota Pekerti '16, featured four teams:  "Italian Ice," with Yu (Jerry) Qin '17, Chiara Kruger '17, and Rafaella Luzi-Stoutland '17, "Vi elsker at lave mad" (Danish for "we love to cook"), featuring Jackson Weiner '14, Sam Cleaves '14, and Joe Keedy '14, "Men at Wok," with Alexander Valera '16, Thomas Ruan '16, and Daniel Lai '17, and "Kitchen Stadium," featuring Nicholar Madan '16, Andrew Pak '16, and Daniel Redelmeier '16. Each trio of chefs did their best to deliver dishes that dazzled the panel of judges. 

The teams diced vegetables and seasoned meat at kitchen stations positioned in the center of dining hall, as students enjoyed the festivities while going about their normal dining hall experience. Armed with a heated stir-fry machine, cutting boards, knives, and other cooking utensils, each team navigated a fixed list of ingredients in order to create an appetizer or salad and an entrée in under 90 minutes. The finished meals were evaluated for presentation, texture, and taste. 

Trial by Fire

The judging panel included Benton Peak, the executive chef of Swarthmore Dining Services, Student Activities Coordinator Mike Elias, Alexander Blocker '15, and Yuyan Tang '17. The prize? A bucket of cooking supplies and a packet of biscotti.

The teams produced a diverse group of dishes, including traditional pasta dishes, green salads, basil chicken with sautéed vegetables, a ramen dish with a homemade stock, and deep-fried tofu, among others. The winning pairing came from Men at Wok, who produced scallion pancakes and chicken to perfection.