Eleven FIU students, staff and alumni rolled up their sleeves, sharpened their knives and set out to cook for a cause at the 2017 Taste of FIU Cook-Off.
Hosted in the Graham Center ballrooms on Dec. 1, the cook-off was paired with a holiday auction. Proceeds from the events benefited United Way of Miami-Dade, a nonprofit that works to improve education, financial stability and health in the community. To participate in the cook-off, contestants each had to raise at least $400 for the cause.
Each round challenged the university’s aspiring chefs to use a basket of required “mystery ingredients” in their dishes, as well as any additional ingredients they chose from a table of fresh vegetables, fruits, spices and more. The produce was donated by Coosemans Worldwide, a specialty supplier that sources produce from around the world.
Hospitality management senior Christian Torres’ vegan cauliflower tacos; pan-fried, Argentinian-style duck; and deconstructed crêpe with apricot and grated manchego cheese won him the 2017 Taste of FIU title.
Taste of FIU judges Stephen Piechnik, sous chef at KYU in Miami and Alex Diaz, private chef at Palmar restaurant selected the mystery basket ingredients – some of which they themselves had not even used in recipes.
“It’s fun to see how much people appreciate food in the end,” Diaz said. “From a chef’s point of view, we see the dishes deconstructed in our minds before we even create a dish. But the contestants are just going off of what they taste and see in front of them as they cook. Some stuff they may have never used or heard of before.”
The cook-off and auction raised a combined $17,532 for the United Way, with more than $5,700 of that raised by the contestants.