Executive Chef Paul Hoover of Montgoris Dining Hall faced off with Executive Chef Anthony Felice from the Vincentian Dining Hall March 27 in an Iron Chef-style cook-off, complete with a secret theme ingredient.
“I’m gonna squeeze him like a lemon,” Hoover said of Felice. “I’m gonna pluck him like a chicken,” Felice said in response. The two chefs were battling for pride, and the honor of having a winning dish on this week’s menu in Montgoris.
The competition was based on the popular Japanese television show “Iron Chef.” On the show, which airs on the Food Network, gourmet chefs from around the globe battle in Kitchen Stadium with resident Iron Chefs, all of whom are masters of world cuisine. The chefs have an hour to prepare a series of dishes that must include a secret theme ingredient, revealed at the start of the match. After the one hour deadline expires, the food is submitted to judges who critique and score the chefs on their performances.
The battle began just after 6 p.m. in Mongoris Dining Hall, when hosts John Muzio, the director of Operations for campus services at Aramark Corporation for the Queens’ campus, and Betty Rozemblum, to District Marketing Manager, revealed the secret ingredient: prawns.
The two chefs and their assistants scrambled to prepare their dishes as judges and audience members looked on. Meanwhile, Muzio and Rozemblum provided commentary and peppered the audience with pop-culture trivia. Intermittent microphone failures cut their performance short, but the chefs provided more than enough entertainment turning off each others burners, slipping prawns down assistants’ backs and offering taste tests to anyone within range.
With the home court advantage, Hoover was the heavy crowd favorite, and as his culinary creations began to appear, the audience chanted his name. Not that Felice was without fans; his family and friends showed up en masse, clapping and waving placards with his name on them as he put the finishing touches on his dishes.
When time ran out and the burners were turned off, ten dishes, with mouth-watering descriptions like “chipolata glazed prawn with jasmine rice,” awaited judgment.
The judging panel was made up of St. John’s luminaries such as Dr. Susan Ebbs, vice president of Student Life; Dr. Jos√© Rodriguez, dean of students; Aion Hoque, president of SGI; and Amanda Weekes, the Editor in Chief of The TORCH. They dutifully endured hours of sampling gourmet cooking, scoring each dish after conversing with its creator.
When it was all over, Chef Felice won by a hair’s-breadth of four points.
“It was excellent. The ingredients were interesting, and we had fun,” the winner said after shaking hands with his opponent. “I hope you guys had fun, cause it’s all about you guys. I mean that sincerely.”