Over 1,000 students gathered in Commons Dining Hall Tuesday evening for the annual Final Cut competition.
In this culinary event, jointly organized by Yale Dining and the Yale College Council, one team from every residential college was required to prepare an appetizer and an entrée with given ingredients in 60 minutes. They then presented the finished dishes to a board of five judges, which included University President Peter Salovey, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway and Executive Director of Yale Dining Rafi Taherian. At the end of the night, Silliman College came out on top, winning $1,000.
“If you just look at the competitors’ performances, you would think that they are professional culinary students,” Taherian said.
Dishes were judged on factors such as appearance and temperature of the food, according to judge Ron DeSantis, director of culinary excellence at Yale. But at the end of the day, he said, it is always taste that matters the most.
Final Cut judge Ming Tsai ’86, a celebrity chef and television personality, agreed with DeSantis, adding that optimal flavor comes down to good execution and proper seasoning. Having competed in the TV show “The Next Iron Chef” — in which professional chefs compete with each other under time pressure — Ming said finishing two dishes within one hour can be very stressful for cooks.
Salovey said he was proud to see Yalies exemplify such diverse talents. Judging can be a tricky job, he said, as judges have to remember the tastes of 24 dishes, and pick their favorite from them.
“The winning dish always has some little surprise that makes it stand out on the palate,” Salovey said before the competition.
Teams competed not only for the best culinary skills, but also for the best manifestation of college spirit. A Trumbull bull was seen cheering for their team at Commons.
“Final Cut is a great opportunity for an epic battle of not only tastes and flavors, but also of college spirit,” said Greg Meyer ’16, who had a Morse flagpole on his shoulder and a walrus hat on his head.
Jaime Halberstam ’16, YCC events director and co-organizer of the event, said the event is meant to showcase the diverse talents of Yale students, as well as showing that Yale Dining can offer more than the everyday dining hall food.
Roughly one dozen vendors, partnering with Yale Dining, provided food samples to students attending the event. While students cheered for their college’s teams, they also enjoyed sushi, pastries, Alaskan cod, protein shakes and several more items.
Kevin Ennis ’17 said the food was great and very different from everyday dining hall food.
Jann Dickerson, representative of Alaska Seafood, said she is glad Yale chose her company, because it provides sustainable food and shows Yale’s commitment to the environment. Armand Boutin, from Yale’s cereal provider, Mom Brands, said he hopes that when students go work in different fields, they will know that local products are just as good as national brands — but without the higher fees.
Each team started and finished five minutes after the previous team, giving the judges enough time to taste each dish. Juli Cho ’15 on the Pierson team said that although the team had practiced before, it was more hectic when executing in front of judges and the audience.
“This year was the strongest competition since this [Final Cut] began,” Salovey said, before the judges announced the winner. “The scores came unbelievably close. The difference between the first and the second was smaller than one tenth.”
Taherian said it was hard to choose a winner. All participants showed amazing skills and understanding of the culinary art, he said, and their food quality was first-rate.
Davenport and Saybrook came in second and third place, respectively.