CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas –Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Dining Hall invited the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Dr. David Scott, and the Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Dr. Julie Anne Hoff, to step out of their academic duties and don their cooking caps. The exceptional cooking event and first competition of its kind at the Island University, “Iron Chef: Dean’s Challenge,” was back for the second edition of epic culinary duels on Nov. 29.
Both deans, who are new to campus and started their tenure at the beginning of the fall semester, met “spatula-to-spatula” in a sizzling cooking battle. Each one shared the strategy and the culinary training they utilized in preparation for the competition.
“My plan for the competition was to get all my ingredients ready first and then dive into the cooking but pay attention to the clock,” said Hoff. “My family gave me pointers and encouraged me to try some of my recipes over the Thanksgiving Holiday. I ended up with several recipes that had a robust flavor.”
The Iron Chef showdown allowed the Deans to show their culinary talents in an environment full of excitement and enthusiasm. The Islander community cheered for the academic chef of their preference from the beginning of the event until the end. The Deans were charged with creating a chicken dish and would receive extra points if they used a secret ingredient from Izzy’s Food Pantry – cream of mushroom soup. This secret ingredient was chosen because mushrooms are Islander Dining’s superfood of the month. Hoff says her entrée was influenced by her Italian-Mediterranean style of cooking while Scott presented a dish with a southwestern flair.
“I developed my style as a result of not always having the ingredients I needed for a recipe,” said Scott. “I prepared for the competition by mixing recipes from two of my favorite southwestern foods and doing a trial run.”
A carefully selected panel of judges including Dr. Don Albrecht, Vice President of Student Engagement and Success; Lisa Perez, Assistant Vice President of Student Life and Justin Bustos, Student Government Association President had the distinct honor of having the “first bite.”
“I think this challenge was great for our students who are always learning,” said Albrecht, who looked forward to tasting good food. “We’re seeing two academic individuals interact on a very different level. It helps the students see a more approachable side to our academic leadership.”
The dean’s recipes were assessed based on its taste, creativity, presentation, and use of the secret ingredient. The one-hour cooking duel ended when Scott emerged victorious by one point with an elaborate Santa Fe Trail Chicken dish. Scott’s recipe was assessed based on its taste, creativity, presentation, and use of the secret ingredient.
“In preparing to win, I focused on unique flavors and presentation,” said Scott. “Winning always feels good, but more importantly, competing against a colleague from another College and building strong relationships is the ultimate win.”
Scott joined Dr. Frank Pezold, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering last year’s Iron Chef winner.
Amanda Hall, Director of Marketing and Guest Experience of Islander Dining, highlighted why the Iron Chef Dean’s Challenge event special for Chartwells to host at the University and talked about the future of this event.
“We want different departments to come together under one roof and share the fun of competition,” said Hall. “We’re looking forward to doing this event annually and expanding upon it every year.”