Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
“We like to think we’re pretty savage at cooking,” said Mara Livezey K’13 from team Rhubarbarians at Farms to K’s annual cook-off in Hoben Lounge on Monday evening. The sold-out event, sponsored by the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Institute for Service-Learning, hosted an audience of 120 people, 17 competing student teams and three professional judges.
Sodexo Head Chef Lorenzo McClanahan, Chef Matt Askelson of Oakwood Bistro in Kalamazoo, and Bridgett Blough ’08, a certified natural chef, were tasked with choosing one sweet and one savory winner. K students voted for a second set of winners.
Student teams were required to purchase 75 percent local ingredients, which most obtained from the Bank Street Farmer’s Market and the People’s Food Co-Op. Other sources included Young Earth Farm in Decatur, Mich., Meijer, and Schroeder.
“It’s a challenge to procure ingredients from local sources. This event is a chance for enthusiasts of local food to cook and be resourceful,” said Farms to K Civic Engagement Scholar Charlotte Steele K’14.
Some teams entered with a competitive drive or to show their support for Farms to K, while others, like Trace Redmond K’13 and Eeva Sharp K’13, joined because they value eating local food. The Rhubarbarians said their interest in local food systems began with Amelia Katanski’s first year seminar, Cultivating Community.
The most universal motivation was a love of cooking.
“All we ever do is cook. We like to experiment with food and we’ve found that our recipes have gotten better, so the cook-off was a goal to work towards,” said Joe Barth K’13, whose Satan House pulled pork won his team the peoples’ choice award for best savory dish.
Entries were judged based on presentation, creativity, dish balance, and taste. Askelson said the decision ultimately hinged upon which dishes aligned with the heart of the competition—what foods are in season and available in Kalamazoo right now.
According to Steele, the competition is also about reviving and recognizing the spirit of food as part of our lives.
“Being able to have that relationship behind the food when you’re cooking is really important,” says Steele.
The judges’ savory vote went to Sustainability House members Laurel Prince K’14 and Becca LaCroix K’14 for their asparagus bread, while Carl Washburn K’13 and Alice Bowe’s K’13 rhubarb-mint crisp and mint ice cream earned the sweet vote. The students’ votes went to the Satan House pulled pork and the rhubarb-mint crisp again, but “to keep in the spirit of things,” Farms to K members declared the Rhubarbarians the winners in the sweet category for their rhubarb sorbet, after coming in a close second.