Food Day Fair brings competition, spreads awareness of healthy living
Cole Malham / The Daily Wildcat
Iron Chef, Connor Young, plating former head basketball coach, Lute Olson, at the Iron Chef Competition at UA Food Day on Wednesday.
Campus heated up even more on Wednesday with the Iron Chef competition hosted at the Food Day Fair.
The UA Mall was packed with Food Day Fair attendees who received free food, advice on healthy living and a chance to watch contestants face off in the Iron Chef competition. The aim of the annual event, hosted by the Student Health Advocacy Committee and the Well University Partnership, is to spread consciousness about healthy foods and resources.
“Food Day is a national day, and it’s a grassroots effort to increase awareness about healthy and sustainable foods,” said Hana Abdulaziz Feeney, a Campus Health nutrition counselor and the coordinator of the Food Day Fair. “All of these people are working together to help people to have greater access to healthier and sustainable foods.”
The Iron Chef competition was a brand new addition to the fair this year and featured two finalist teams who won a contest on Tuesday, allowing them to advance to the final competition. The purpose of the event was to get students more involved with the fair, said Kjersti Johnson, a nutritional science senior, co-coordinator for Cooking on Campus and one of the executive organizers for Iron Chef.
When noon rolled around, the Iron Chef contestants, Team America and Kitchen Nubes, prepared to compete. The three celebrity judges also prepared their taste buds when it was revealed that cactus would be the secret ingredient for the competition that day.
“I try to avoid cactus,” said Lute Olson, former UA men’s basketball coach and one of the three celebrity judges.
The other two judges were Neil Houlihan, a student-athlete, and Jon Levengood, the dining services retail manager at Arizona Student Unions.
Contestant number one, Team America, also known as Connor Young, stepped up to the dinner plate and served a meal of spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs, strawberries and grilled bell peppers. As for the cactus, Young grilled and placed some of it into the salad, then mixed the rest in with a homemade garlic and cactus aioli dressing to top it off. He also offered a side of homemade potato chips cooked with olive oil, in order to show how chips can be healthy.
The members of Kitchen Nubes mixed cactus into both a quinoa cake and a southwest frittata, according to Abby Gallett, one of the team’s leaders and a microbiology senior. Ultimately, Kitchen Nubes won over the judges and ended up the first-ever winner of the Iron Chef competition. Gallett and Katie Limky, the team’s second leader and a second-year pharmacy student, each walked away with a prize basket filled with cooking utensils.
“Both teams did a really good job,” Levengood said. “The secret ingredient was a tough one. Probably not a lot of people are familiar with cactus and how to bring out the flavor.”
Meredith Ridinger, a nutritional sciences senior and co-coordinator for Cooking on Campus, said she was happy to see so many people show interest in the cooking competition.
“People have really gotten away from cooking and being in the kitchen,” Ridinger said, “and them showing interest shows that they’d be willing to get back in the kitchen, which is really where we can control how our food is made and where it comes from.”
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