Academic Fellows Compete in Top Chef Themed Event

CORAL GABLES (Florida) – Academic Fellows (AFs), shortly after returning to campus from the University of Miami’s Winter Recess, were confronted with an interesting and challenging task – planning and preparing dinner for 35 guests, including the distinguished faculty-in-residence of Hecht, Stanford and Mahoney Residential Colleges.

After two days of intense training encompassing workshops on diversity, individual strengths, and programming, the 18 student leaders were divided up into four teams of 4-5 people.  Each team was tasked with planning and preparing one course of the four course meal.  With only 3 hours to plan, prepare and present, the faculty kitchens of SRC were heated in more ways than one.

After an initial brainstorming session to develop a theme (they decided on Mexican after an object lesson in the virtues of democracy), the AFs split up into their respective corners to assemble ingredients, marinate, and take stock of their supplies and resources.  Some teams opted for the pricier (but arguably higher quality) offerings at Whole Foods, while others gathered their wares from the place where shopping is a pleasure.

Once all the team members and their various culinary implements had assembled in their pre-assigned cooking spaces, the heat was on.  With only two hours left in their allotted time, the challenge was just as much about team management as it was about clock management.

Grills sizzled, pots boiled and ovens…well…just sat there, but each team was a whirling dervish of cutting, chopping, basting, and of course, taste-testing.  With only fifteen minutes left on the clock, dishes began making their way into the Brosco apartment, one tantalizing presentation after another.

Promptly at 6:00PM, guests began arriving.  Dr. Edmund Abaka, Associate Master of Mahoney Residential College, was the first to arrive.  With an open mind and an empty stomach, he and the other guests slowly began to fill the apartment.  Soon, the room was a cornucopia of sights, sounds and smells.  The children of the faculty masters gleefully chased each other around the legs of chairs and adults.  The dishes had been laid out and were eagerly awaiting their patrons.  The AFs were gathered around the couches and given a few moments to briefly describe their contributions to the group-assembled banquet.  Appetizers consisted of chips and assorted dips.  The entrée team had prepared “make-your-own” burritos with grilled chicken and beef options.  A variety of fresh green and fruit salads rounded out the offerings of the side dishes team.  Finally, the team responsible for dessert announced their black forest cherry cake, banana pudding and frozen chocolate-covered strawberries.

With no hesitation, the AFs helped themselves to heaping servings of their colleages’ creations.  Bite by bite, the entire staff and all their invited guests did their best to find a good home for the seemingly never-ending offerings.  After much trying, the weary chefs put down their forks in defeat, for clearly they had prepared more food than they could reasonably attend to.   With a proud sense of defeat, the group members dutifully worked together to reassemble the Brosco apartment and the other kitchens they had dismantled in their afternoon of team building.

So, was this a worthwhile exercise for this group of academic and intellectual role models?  Well, let’s just say it was good enough to eat.