Jack Hopper Dining Hall became the proving ground for Jacksonville State University’s very own Battle of the Chefs on Tuesday.
The competition was sponsored by Sodexo, and three JSU student chefs showcased their skills: Paul Lindsay, Kyle Nguyen, and Jingjie Li. Kyle Nguyen was awarded first place, Jingjie Li was awarded second, and Paul Lindsay was awarded third.
The competitors were judged by Joe Whitemore, liaison between JSU and Sodexo; head football coach Bill Clark; Terry Casey and Debbie Taylor from the Office of Student Life; SGA President Jason Sumner and executive chef Brian Cosby.
Each contestant was required to prepare an appetizer and an entrée, which were judged on presentation, creativity, and taste.
Also required by the competition was the use of a secret ingredient in at least one dish, revealed to be avocado.
The three JSU students who competed in the cooking competition each brought a flavor from home.
Paul Lindsay, a JSU graduate and current student, concocted American food with his assistant Jeremy Machen.
Lindsay’s appetizer consisted of shrimp and pineapple shish kebabs and a side of guacamole sauce with an entrée that included lemon pepper chicken with sides of cauliflower and peppers.
Lindsay says that he cooks what he knows and that he was happy with the outcome of his dishes.
Jingjie Li, a visiting scholar from China, brought traditional Chinese cuisine to the competition with her assistant Ying Liu.
Li prepared Chinese fried noodles and a chicken and vegetable appetizer.
Says Li about why she competed, “I wanted to make Chinese noodles.”
Kyle Nguyen, a nursing major at JSU, created Vietnamese dishes that allowed him to take home the first place trophy and prize, a bicycle donated by Pepsi.
Nguyen prepared a shrimp and cucumber salad with a garnish of avocado and sesame seeds for his appetizer, and Vietnamese chicken with ginger and fried rice for his entrée.
“I never thought I would win this because of the simplicity of my dishes,” said Nguyen.
Brian Cosby, Executive Chef at JSU, explains the process of selecting the winner: “People eat with their eyes first.”
The dish’s presentation counted for ten points, its creativity counted for ten points and taste counted for twenty points, for a total of forty possible points awarded from each judge.
Debbie Taylor, of the Office of Student Life, congratulates those who competed. “They were great,” she said.
Terry Casey, also of the office of Student Life, says of the dishes, “They were all very diverse in taste and presentation.”
Lynne Cotton, a Sodexo employee and primary organizer of the event, wishes for the competition to become a semi-annual occurrence.