Top Chef Harvard Winners

From the Crimson:

The grilled chicken in the dining hall looked unusually dry last night.
Luckily, Maya E. Peña ’12 was just the right person to give it some life. After poaching the chicken in a mix of orange juice, water, and stock, Peña coated it with a glaze of honey, mustard, olive oil, and curry powder “to make it juicier,” she said.
Meanwhile, Peña’s teammate Lauren N. Medina ’12 grabbed a plastic cup and crushed a handful of Honey Graham Squares cereal in a bowl. She then scooped in a dollop of butter and brown sugar to create the perfect crust for her cheesecake dessert.
Adams residents Peña and Medina were crowned Top Chef Harvard for their dishes “Orange Poached Chicken” and “No Bake Cheesecake” at the third annual competition at Annenberg Hall last night.
The winners from each upperclassman House and Annenberg competed in the finale. The participants, dressed in tall chef hats and white aprons, were slicing kiwis, stripping chicken pieces, and squeezing lemons as they rushed to create one entrée and dessert per team in 30 minutes using only the ingredients available in the dining hall.
While Peña prepared butternut squash puree and fresh green salad with beans and cranberries, Medina whipped a mixture of cream cheese, lemon, sugar, and butter for the cheesecake.
On the table next to Team Adams, a freshman team of Madalyn S. Bates ’14 and My Nogc C. To ’14 fused different cultural cuisines to create “Fruit Sushi” and “Vietnamese Stuffed Bread Rolls.” Bates’ dessert was made with banana, apple, and kiwi slices rolled up in flattened pieces of white bread with grape jam and cream cheese. To created Vietnamese bread rolls stuffed with grilled chicken marinated in soy sauce, peanut butter, and milk.
“Students can take break from their studies and do something that’s fun and exciting,” said guest judge David P. Davidson, Harvard University Hospitality and Dining Services’ Director of Operations, in an interview before tasting the dishes.
Within 30 minutes of cooking, these aspiring chefs whipped up creative dishes ranging from pasta with peanut butter sauce to chicken quesadillas to key lime pie.
“I can taste the influence of different cultures,” said guest judge Rudolf Gautschi, HUHDS Director for Residential Dining.
Team Mather’s Elena-Madalina Persu ’13 and Joanna F. Behrman ’13 concocted a vegetarian meal: an Italian twist on a grilled cheese sandwich made with local tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and an orange peel stuffed with cinnamon, raisins, honey, and banana.
“We made comfort food—nothing enormously complicated—using the ingredients you can always find and make anytime,” Behrman said.
Team Cabot’s Carolyn S. M. Stein ’13 and Anna C. Mapes ’13, the defending champions, made curry cumin tuna salad with dried cranberries in a toasted pita shell and butternut squash apple crisp.
“I like to use spices, which tend to elevate the food from the typical dining hall food,” Stein said.
The dishes were evaluated on presentation, taste, creativity and sustainability.
In the end, Team Adams won the title, along with an assortment of kitchen utensils and a jar of chocolate sauce. Team Cabot won second place.
“We didn’t expect to win, especially after looking at everyone’s food,” Medina said. “People came up with really inventive dishes.”
Medina’s “No Bake Cheesecake” will become a part of the HUHDS’ regular menu.
The duo already has a plan to enter next year’s competition.
“We gotta defend the title next year,” Peña said.
—Staff writer Jane Seo can be reached at
Photo by Larissa Zhou

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