Meeting Harvard’s Top Chefs

Last Tuesday, the Food Literacy Project (FLP) hosted the Top Chef final at Annenberg, where contestants engaged in a culinary battle of skill and wits.

As a country, we’re spending less time in our kitchens than ever. (See articles like this  and reports like this). So how is Generation Y learning to cook and relate to their food?

Here’s are stories from a few of our Top Chef contestants:

Zwee Lin and Anisa (Lev House)

FLP: So tell me first about your interest in food. Where did that come from?

Anisa: We just love food – we love eating. In terms of learning how to cook, Zwee here is mainly self-taught.

Zwee: Yup. Neither of my parents really taught me – I learnt most things from just trial and error really.

FLP: That’s awesome; let’s move on to tonight. What was your game plan?

Zwee: I wanted to make something sweet and savory, so I did an entree that was chicken with black beans, corn and cheese. This was served with a cold wrap that had an onion, cucumber, apricot and carrot filling. Mixing flavors is always interesting.

Anisa: For dessert I made chex mixed in peanut butter and powdered sugar. Then I added chocolate syrup, peanut butter and butter.

FLP: That sounds awesome. Now, give me a one-liner that summarizes your entire philosophy toward food.

Lev: Share it.

Nadeem Abou-Arraj and Jon Herrmann (Winthrop)

FLP: Tell me more about yourselves.

Jon: I watch the Food Network obsessively, so I try to mimic the stuff they do.

Nadeem: My dad’s a chef from Lebanon, so I grew up eating Lebanese food. It’s my heritage and I’ve tried to reflect that in my cooking tonight.

FLP: So what did you guys cook?

Nadeem: I made a Mediterranean entree: fatoosh, which is kind of a Lebanese salad, marinated chicken with yoghurt sauce, fried pita chips. (See the recipes for fatoosh, tzatziki, and balsamic glazed apple tart — all from dining hall food –below )

Jon: I did a balsamic glazed apple tart. I first marinated the apples, before softening them in the microwave. I made the pie crust out of mashed-up cereal, sugar and butter.

FLP: Your one-liner for food:

Winthrop: Freshness and Family.

Serena, Maddy, Chris

FLP: Wow you guys must be the youngest chefs here. Where did you learn how to cook?

Maddy: Well we don’t cook that regularly actually. We mainly eat from the dining hall.

Chris: But our dad likes to cook.

FLP: So I’m guessing you guys learnt from your dad?

Chris: Yeah.

FLP: What’s the favorite thing your dad cooks?

Maddy: Black bean quesadillas. And chocolate-chip muffins.

FLP: So tell me more about what you guys did tonight.

Serena: We made a stuffing for the fish, using corn, cheese and —

Maddy: Tabasco!

Serena: Yeah tabasco too. They put tabasco on everything they make.

Chris: For dessert we used the boston cream cake, mashed it up, added vanilla frozen yoghurt and stuffed it into an ice cream cone.

FLP: That sounds fantastic. Now give me your one-liner:

Currier: It’s always more satisfying to eat something that you’ve cooked yourself.

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