Eight Kendall College School of Culinary Arts students rolled noodles, formed bean-curd cakes, made pork sausage, blanched bok choy and even stuffed squid to vie for the prize of an expenses-paid week experiencing the foods and flavors of Taiwan in the first cookoff of its kind at Kendall College on Dec. 12. Tayler Moore, a sophomore pursuing his bachelor’s in culinary arts, tipped the scales with his dish featuring a chicken thigh fabricated to resemble a lollipop. The competition, hosted by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Chicago, highlighted the official launch of Taiwan’s Government Information Office’s multilingual Web site celebrating Taiwan’s diverse foodways.
Organized by faculty chefs Michel Coatrieux and Thomas Meyer, competing students had 90 minutes to prepare four portions of their entries, which were evaluated on flavor, plate presentation, texture/mouthfeel and proper doneness. Students were also judged on professionalism, proper mise en place and sanitation in the kitchen.
Besides Moore, the following students competed: Samantha Chiu, Gregory Hageli, Dion Jumapao, Emma Mei, Maxwell Robbins, John Saccomando Jr. and John Sirridge. So impressed were judges with the overall caliber of entries that the top four dishes scored within a mere two-point spread. (Two students tied for second place; the third-place student scored just two points below Moore.)
“I feel blessed,” said an excited Moore when his win was announced. Prior to the cookoff, Moore experimented with possible entries that he and his roommate sampled before he ultimately chose “Taiwanese-Style Three Cup Chicken.” The dish’s name comes from Moore’s use of a cup each of soy sauce, dry sherry and sesame oil, seasoned and reduced to create a rich sauce. For the judges, Moore presented the chicken-thigh “lollipop” over a bed of pickled mustard greens, spooned sauce over the chicken, and crowned the dish with a vinaigrette-dressed salad of Thai basil and cilantro. A drizzle of chili oil finished the presentation.
Judging the cookoff were Baushuau Ger, director general of TECO in Chicago; Christopher Koetke, CEC, CCE, executive director of the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and vice president of Laureate International Universities Center of Excellence in Culinary Arts; and Meilie Tsai of the Taiwan School in Lombard, Ill. Tsai will chaperone Moore in Taiwan, whose tour will include the famed nighttime street markets and two days at a Taiwanese cooking school.