Sharpening Their Chef Skills

By Steven Johnson '13
March 7, 2013

Lydia’s Lounge transformed into Kitchen Stadium Tuesday night after students gathered in the University Hall meeting place to sharpen their cooking skills before some real competition heats up next month.

Hosted by the hospitality leadership student group Fresh Slice, the budding chefs prepped for the upcoming Brave Chef cooking competition. The contest is styled after the popular reality show “Iron Chef,” where cooks battle each other and the clock to see who can create the best dishes based on a special ingredient.

To help them practice and learn important skills for the main event, students brushed up on their kitchen skills with the help of Aramark, the food services vendor for Bradley's dinning locations.

“I am very excited to be a part of this,” said Karl Wolak, Aramark’s executive chef on campus. “I am bringing my experiences from other universities to Bradley and thankfully the Fresh Slice team was open to the idea. They have completely taken the concept and run with it.”

During the evening Wolak walked students through several cooking demonstrations including how to dice vegetables, properly hold a knife, safely prepare meals and even the right way to wear an apron. At the practice session, which continues on Wednesday night, students sliced and diced peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli and chicken before sautéing the ingredients in a frying pan.

Dr. Kara Wolfe, associate professor of family and consumer sciences, said the event introduces students to possible careers in hospitality and allows them to work side-by-side with professionals like Wolak. The hospitality program, offered through the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, prepares graduates for careers in event planning, food service, hotel and lodging management and recreation and tourism professions.

“Our goal is to raise awareness of and respect for the hospitality industry,” Dr. Wolfe said. “There are a lot of good jobs out there and we just want people to know what hospitality entails.”

Senior Dana Robinson, a hospitality leadership major and president of Fresh Slice, said the group wanted to provide an interactive activity for students and give them an opportunity to cook on campus.

Hannah Koci, a sophomore hospitality leadership major, said she got involved with Brave Chef to enjoy the collaborative experience and test her culinary skills and taste buds.

“I think this is a great opportunity for people to collaborate as a team and practice cooking,” she said. “It’s practical and helps build skills for a future career.

The Brave Chef competition will take place at 6 p.m. Friday, April 5, in the Michel Student Center Ball Room. Teams of six will compete in the event that involves incorporating a secret ingredient in all prepared dishes. In order to compete in the main event, students must have attended an informational session.